Pochettino: I owe Ryan Mason a lot after his contributions in my first season at Spurs

Ryan Mason celebrates after scoring his first Tottenham goal against Nottingham Forest at White Hart

Ryan Mason celebrates after scoring his first Tottenham goal against Nottingham Forest at White Hart Lane in September 2014. Picture: PA - Credit: EMPICS Sport

Mauricio Pochettino says he owes a lot to Ryan Mason after the midfielder’s contributions at important moments during his first season in charge of Tottenham.

Pochettino won his first four matches with the Lilywhites in August 2014 but then picked up just one point from the following three Premier League matches, as a 3-0 home defeat against Liverpool was followed by a 2-2 draw at Sunderland and then a 1-0 loss against West Bromwich Albion at White Hart Lane.

Spurs’ next game was a League Cup tie at home against Championship leaders Nottingham Forest – and they fell behind just after the hour-mark.

But Pochettino called Mason from the bench, handing him his first appearance of the season, and the midfielder promptly struck a long-range equaliser – his first goal for the club - as the hosts went on to triumph 3-1.

The Spurs manager visited his former player in hospital today, as the 25-year-old recovers from a fractured skull sustained in Sunday’s game against Chelsea – and Pochettino clearly remembers the events leading up to Mason’s strike against Forest.

“It was special,” said the Argentinian. “After pre-season I spoke with him and I gave him the possibility to be with the first team and play with the Under-21s.

“I always remember, it was a Wednesday, the game against Nottingham Forest. He had played in Sunderland with the Under-21s [on the Monday] – very late, around eight o’clock.

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“After the game we called John McDermott and John said ‘he was fantastic. For 90 minutes he fought, he showed character on a very difficult pitch [when it was] very cold and not good conditions to play’. I said to him ‘ok, tomorrow morning he trains with us’. After training he was in the squad and on the bench.

“It was a difficult game. I turned to Jesus [Perez] and said ‘tell Ryan to be ready’, and with the first touch of the ball he scored an unbelievable goal.”

Pochettino continued: “It started to change his present and then it was fantastic. It’s true that it was a little bit naughty, but his contribution in the Aston Villa game [six weeks later] was key (when a scuffle led to Christian Benteke being sent off) because we were in a very difficult position.

“That’s why for me, in my present today, he deserves a lot of credit because he helped us a lot, and the team. For that he is a special player for me and will always be special.

“It is not only because he scored against Nottingham Forest but from day one, when we arrived at Tottenham, how we saw him. He was a player with big talents but with a bit of bad luck in his career.

“In that moment it was a challenge to try to provide him with the tools to be a first-team player. I think we were right to believe and trust in him.

“When he took the decision to move to Hull it was a very tough moment for me. It was very difficult but you know, that is football. You can split physically but the emotion you keep inside, always.”

Tottenham sold another academy graduate, Tom Carroll, earlier this month but that has been their only major piece of business in the January transfer window and they have not made any signings.

Spurs continue to look reliant on striker Harry Kane, given that summer recruit Vincent Janssen has so far failed to score from open play.

However, Pochettino insists he has full confident in his current squad and will ignore any suggestions that the club should seek to sign another forward in the coming days.

“We cannot listen,” he said. “Every fan, every person can have their opinion.

In that moment it’s 80,000 managers, 80,000 chairmen, 80,000 sports scientists. I think we have a plan and we have a strong squad, enough to compete in the next four months.

“Now we cannot change anything, because to find another player who can promise you he will score 20 goals from here until the end of the season, that is impossible.

“What happened at Chelsea? But I don’t like to talk about different clubs. I want to talk about Tottenham, and the players that we have are the best to try to achieve big things.

“If we do not achieve them at the end, maybe we need to improve for next season, maybe we were wrong. But you know, like me, that it’s very difficult to find a player that can fit for us, arrive and score goals. We have a very good team, a very good squad and now it is only about believing and trying to fight.

“We are in a position where we are fighting for the top position. We will see if we are capable at the end of the season if we can achieve the things that are important.”

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