Ryan Mason has hailed his club manager Mauricio Pochettino for the impact the Argentine has had on his career which has seen him earn his first England senior call-up this week.
Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Mason moved up from the club’s academy to sign his first professional deal as a 17-year-old, but it took him until this season to make his maiden Premier League appearance.
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The late bloomer was handed his first-team debut in a UEFA Cup tie away at NEC Nijmegen in 2008 by then boss Harry Redknapp. He didn’t feature again for Spurs until four years later – between which time he’d been out on loan at Yeovil Town, Doncaster Rovers and Millwall.
After another spell away at Swindon Town last season, Mason returned to White Hart Lane, and when Pocchetino arrived in the summer it gave the midfielder a new lease of life.
And he’s taken his opportunity with relish, impressing not only the fans but also England boss Roy Hodgson.
Ryan Mason talks to FATV
“It was unfortunate that I didn’t kick on at a younger age, it took me a bit longer to establish myself,” Mason told TheFA.com.
“I had a lot of injuries and perhaps went out on loan at the wrong times. There were times when players were getting opportunities in the UEFA Cup and I was out on loan.
“But now I’ve got a manager who trusts in me and believes in me. He came in from day one and said that.
“To have a manager like that it gives me a great deal of confidence. He’s has given Harry [Kane] his opportunity and he’s grabbed it with both hands.
“Hopefully, for the sake of English football and Tottenham, that can happen a lot more.”
“It's been a bit of a whirlwind over the last few months.”
Ryan Mason Spurs and England
When Mason joined up he, along with Kane, were in a group of five Spurs players in Hodgson’s squad for their first games of 2015 – against Lithuania at Wembley on Friday and in Turin against Italy next Tuesday.
Only nine months ago, when the Three Lions landed in Brazil for the World Cup, there was a distinct absence of Tottenham faces in the England dressing room.
But Mason says that, as he watched the World Cup from afar, just playing regularly for his club was his main aim and that a chance for the national team was not on his radar.
Now he’s in the squad, a replacement call-up on Monday, having those familiar faces around him in the camp has made it easy to settle in during a “whirlwind” season.
“You don’t really think like that. I’m an England fan and I want the country to do well,” he said.
“It’s amazing and been a bit of a whirlwind over the last few months and to be involved in the squad is an unbelievable feeling.
“It was a shock, because I wasn’t announced in the initial squad. I was in the office with the gaffer talking about the weekend’s game and the Doc came in and said that England had been on the phone. It was a surreal moment.
“To be honest, I’ve only had 22 Premier League games and this season I’ve just been concentrating on my club form and trying to improve week in, week out.
“The fact that [this call-up] has come so early in my Premier League career is a great feeling.
“With five of us [from Spurs] here now shows the work that is going in at club level is starting to pay off.
“It’s great to have the other lads from Tottenham here. It makes it a lot easier and more comfortable to come into the England environment.”
Now he has spent his first few days with his international team-mates, Mason is hoping to add to the England youth honours he collected at U16, U19 and U20 level.
A first appearance at Wembley in Tottenham’s League Cup defeat to Chelsea will be topped if he can run out under the Arch against Lithuania on Friday.
“I hope so,” said Mason. “It’s every boy’s dream to represent their country at any level, so hopefully I can get that and it would be a great achievement personally.
“It was a great experience when I was involved in the U19s and U20s. It’s the best thing, it’s the pinnacle of your career to represent your country.
“I remember [my debut] clearly. It was Slovenia away. My parents had flown out so it was a great moment.”
Even if the chance doesn’t come this week, you have the feeling that Mason will keep working hard until it does.
“It’s about being dedicated and having belief in your ability,” he added.
“It’s taken longer to establish myself than I would have liked, but the road I’ve taken I wouldn’t change because it has made me the person and player I am today.”