Ryan Mason: Lack of game time means I’m ready to make an impact in Tottenham’s run-in
Ryan Mason believes his lack of game time this season could now become a positive factor for Tottenham, leaving him fresh to make a key contribution as the campaign heads towards its climax.
The 24-year-old played 37 matches for Spurs last season but two injuries, combined with the form of Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele, has restricted him to just 15 appearances this term - six of them as a substitute.
There was a collective groan among Tottenham’s supporters on Wednesday as Mauricio Pochettino announced that Dembele – who has been an influential figure in Spurs’ success – would be out of action for 10 to 14 days, missing the upcoming Premier League clashes with Swansea and West Ham and possibly the north London derby against title rivals Arsenal next Saturday.
However, Mason seized his opportunity to impress in the 3-0 win against Fiorentina on Thursday night, scoring the opening goal in a generally impressive display – and he believes his time on the sidelines may now pay dividends.
“That’s the way I’m looking at it,” he said. “I remember this stage last year and it does get physically and mentally tiring. I’ve not played many games so I feel fresh, I feel good so hopefully I can make an impact.
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“The team’s doing well, that’s the main thing. I’d like to have played more but I’m fit now and the season isn’t over yet so hopefully I can kick on.
“There are some massive games coming up now. Obviously it’s disappointing that there are some players injured, but hopefully they can come back as soon as possible, and if I’m called upon I can give my all and hopefully do well.
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“At this stage of the season, every game is crucial and hopefully we can put in good performances and get good results.
“Obviously we’re up there [in the table] at the minute but we know football is a funny game and things can change. We’re just focussing on each game as it comes and enjoying the moment. Hopefully we’ll keep it going as long as possible.”
Mason’s impact in the absence of the injured Dembele on Thursday was just one of the signals that Tottenham’s squad is stronger than it was this time last year, when Fiorentina dumped them out of the Europa League at the same last-32 stage.
Kevin Wimmer deputised for Jan Vertonghen again at centre-back this week, while Nacer Chadli has to fill in as a striker due to Harry Kane’s broken nose, but Spurs were comfortable 3-0 winners against the side that sit third in Italy’s Serie A.
“They [Fiorentina] have improved as well,” Mason noted. “They’re a very good team and they’re doing well in their respective league.
“The first result was crucial. To get them back to the Lane level, with an away goal, I thought that was massive and we felt confident we’d get the win at home. For the team, it’s a great result and nice to progress through to the next round. Obviously it’s always nice to chip in with a goal too.”
Mason believes there is much to admire about Tottenham under Mauricio Pochettino and feels it is wholly positive that a club which is committed to the development of homegrown players is fighting for the title.
“If you’re a fan of football you can only enjoy what’s going on here,” he said. “The gaffer is bringing in young players, like on Thursday with Josh [Onomah] and [Harry] Winks.
“There’s not many other clubs in top-flight football doing that and we’re doing so well, so obviously he’s doing something right and the club’s doing something right.
“I think last season we showed glimpses of the way we were going about it and this season we’ve kicked on again. I’m sure next season we’ll be better and we’ll gain more experience. At the minute, we’re relishing the opportunities and enjoying every game.”
While Mason believes some rival fans might have a certain admiration for Tottenham’s methods, and their success this season, he admits he is unlikely to hear much praise from them in person.
“If I bumped into them that’s the last thing they’d be saying to me!” he laughed. “So no, I don’t really get that. I think they all want their own clubs to do well.”
Mason was among a group of around 40 England players that met with England manager Roy Hodgson earlier this month with a view to this summer’s European Championship in France.
He has been playing catch-up recently in the battle for places in the Three Lions’ squad, but he said: “First and foremost I just wanted to get fit and back playing for Tottenham Hotspur. I think with me doing that, the international scene will take care of itself, whatever happens, but my focus was solely on Tottenham [when I was injured].”
Eric Dier was also among the six Spurs players that were involved in the England get-together, and Mason believes his team-mate’s presence helps to bring out the best in his own game.
“I think Eric brings a lot to this team,” he said. “He brings solidarity and he’s a very good player. When I play in there with him it does give me that extra freedom to push on because I know he’s going to be there. I enjoy playing with him.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs