Spurs midfielder knows he faces a fight to regain his place in the side
Ryan Mason admits he will have to fight to regain his place in Tottenham’s midfield – but he is pleased to see Eric Dier and Dele Alli performing so well and feels it bodes well for the future of Spurs, England and the Premier League.
Mason started the season in fine form and scored a late winning goal at Sunderland on September 13 – but he suffered a knee injury in the process, colliding with Black Cats goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon and consequently missing eight games.
With Nabil Bentaleb also sidelined for a similar period, Dier and Alli have started four of the last five league games together in front of the back four – only being separated when Dier was suspended against Liverpool.
The pair have helped Spurs to rack up a nine-match unbeaten run in the top flight while boasting the joint-best defensive record – and Mousa Dembele was named the man of the match when he replaced Dier against Liverpool.
Mason returned to action at Bournemouth last Sunday, coming off the bench in the 68th minute. And, while he is pleased to be back on the field, he is not expecting to walk back into the starting line-up.
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“I’m happy and it’s nice to come back into a winning side as well so it’s all good news,” he said. “It’s never ideal timing [when you get injured] and it was a serious injury as well.
“I tore the muscle, there was swelling and I had bruising as well. The swelling was massive and it was just a case of getting that down because every time I tried to do something it just swelled up again. It took a while but I’m over that now and I’m looking forward to the coming weeks.
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“I’m playing at Tottenham Hotspur and, regardless of whether it’s now, six months ago or a year ago, there’s always competition for places. It’s part and parcel of being at a massive club and I look forward to the challenge of getting back into the side.
“They [Dier and Alli] have done brilliantly, I think it’s clear for everyone to see. Eric’s a centre-half and he’s come on and made that position his own in a way, and Del’s a 19-year-old lad dictating Premier League games. It’s great for English football because they’re both young English players and it’s good to see.”
Mason, Alli and Harry Kane have all made their senior England debuts in 2015, with Alli making his bow last month.
“I think in the last squad there were four or five Spurs lads in it again, and hopefully I can continue [that trend],” said Mason. “Many other managers in the Premier League should hopefully be doing the same because it’s proof that English talent is good enough.”
While England manager Roy Hodgson is reaping the rewards of Mauricio Pochettino’s faith in homegrown players, Mason believes Tottenham are also benefiting from having one of the youngest squads in the Premier League.
“Everyone’s hungry,” he said. “Even the lads that aren’t playing, we’re training hard and we’re driving each other on.
“I think you can see that when we make substitutions. No-one’s down about not starting, they come on and want to impact the game – and that goes for the players that travel and aren’t even in the squad as well. Everyone’s pulling in the right direction and want us to win games.
“Our performances have been good. Last weekend, after a sloppy score in the first five minutes, I thought the rest of the game was near-on perfect. We scored goals, we looked solid as well and hopefully that can continue.”
Mason’s last start for Tottenham ended with his third goal for the club – a relatively meagre tally given he scored from 30 yards in his first game under Pochettino against Nottingham Forest last September, and given the dangerous positions he gets himself into. However, the midfielder is not focusing on his strike-rate.
“I think people forget I’m a deep-lying centre midfielder,” he said. “It’s difficult – the way we play, our full-backs are the ones who are expected to get on and the midfielders are the ones that cover.
“Obviously I hope to chip in with some goals but I’m setting realistic targets for myself so I don’t have to deal with disappointment.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs