In the early spring of 2015, all was not well at Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.
A new, young coach named Mauricio Pochettino was in the middle of his first full season, and although he had shown a high tactical aptitude and had incorporated several youth players into the side, the results were not coming.
A dreary run of form in February, including a Europa League round of 32 exit to Fiorentina and a League Cup final loss to Chelsea, had the club clinging on to 6th place in the Premier League.
On March 4th, Spurs went into half-time drawing 1-1 with Swansea City. Facing another undesirable result in the Premier League and having already been dumped out of all cup competitions, Pochettino likely walked out of the dressing room for the second half fearing the sack.
Those fears were eased by a then 23-year-old central midfielder named Ryan Mason, who scored a goal in the 51st minute to put his side ahead.
Mason had been promoted from the club’s academy by Pochettino earlier in the season and had formed a promising partnership with fellow academy graduate Nabil Bentaleb.
In the moment when his coach and teammates needed him most, Mason had been the man to rise to the occasion.
Few could have predicted the up-and-down nature of Mason’s career following that match. The central midfielder went on to make a total of 70 appearances for his boyhood club, including being named captain for a Europa League rematch against Fiorentina in 2016.
Following a 2015/16 season in which Pochettino selected Ryan for only 8 Premier League starts, Mason left Tottenham in the summer of 2016 for Hull City in search of more regular playing time.
Unfortunately, his first season with his new club would be cut dramatically short when disaster struck.
On January 22, 2017, Mason was involved in a clash of heads with then Chelsea defender Gary Cahill. The impact fractured Mason’s skull and left him fighting for his life as he was rushed to hospital, where emergency surgery followed.
Doctors ended up inserting 14 metal plates, 38 screws, and 45 staples into Ryan’s skull in order to save his life.
Following a gruelling recovery process, Mason was forced into early retirement due to the extent of his injuries, having to give up the game he loved at just 26 years of age, when most players are hitting their prime.
Determined not to leave the sport, Mason returned to his boyhood club and began his coaching badges in Tottenham’s academy, culminating in being named the Head of Player Development for the club in 2020.
What has transpired since then is the stuff of fairy tales. Ryan Mason was given the opportunity to take first-team training following the abrupt sacking of Jose Mourinho, which then turned into being offered the position of Interim Head Coach for the remainder of the season.
Mason then won his first game in charge, a 2-1 comeback victory over Southampton, to set the record as the youngest manager to ever coach, and subsequently win, a Premier League match. Clearly, Mason had not lost his knack for delivering in big moments.
Unfortunately, there was no trophy to add to the Mason story on Sunday as his Spurs side were defeated 1-0 by Man City in the Carabao Cup Final, however, the fairy tale should not be lost in the current Tottenham misery.
Mason’s journey from academy player to first-team star, to victim of a tragedy, to the Premier League record books, seems as though it has been written in the stars.
With top four still a faint dream, perhaps it is time for Ryan to prove once more that he is the right man to rise to the occasion.
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