Troy Townsend saddened by early retirement of ex-Spurs midfielder Ryan Mason, but proud of his achievements
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Troy Townsend full of praise for the changes made by the 26-year-old to ensure he played in the Premier League and represented his country
Former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Ryan Mason announced his retirement from professional football a week ago and someone who watched him develop at the club from a young age thinks he should be proud of what he achieved.
Troy Townsend, the father of ex-Spurs academy graduate Andros, watched Mason and his own son make it through the youth set-up together all the way into the first-team at White Hart Lane.
Both played numerous times for the Lilywhites before leaving in 2016, but last week it was confirmed Mason would no longer continue playing professional football.
Townsend senior, who is an Education Manager at Kick It Out, expressed how “sad” he was to see the 26-year-old forced to retire early, after suffering a fractured skull during an accidental collision with Chelsea’s Gary Cahill on January 22 2017.
But he is also proud of the midfielder’s career having been capped by his country on one occasion while also making 70 appearances for boyhood club Spurs.
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“I’m so impressed with Ryan and what he has achieved because I always saw Ryan as maybe not bulked up enough,” said Townsend senior last week.
“There only seemed one role for him to play and that was as a number 10 and in the Tottenham youth-team set-up, he played it better than anyone.
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“It was a free role to get on the ball and not get involved in the hustle and bustle of the game, but his creativity was amazing. He scored some great goals, but I always thought Ryan was a little bit too slight to play at the highest level.
“So, again what he did to change his whole body structure and shape to make sure he could compete in the Premier League is a credit to himself and the people around him because all of a sudden he was a central midfield player.”
Townsend continued: “For me something had to change for him to make and it did, he bulked himself up and suddenly I was seeing him smash into tackles and I would have never seen that before.”
“He didn’t strike me as that type of player and he picked up a lot of injuries during his youth development because of that, but once his frame bulked up and he learned the position what a top, top lad he was and what a top player.”
Mason went on loan to Yeovil Town, Doncaster Rovers (on three separate occasions), Millwall, Lorient and Swindon Town before establishing himself in the Spurs starting XI in the 2014/15 campaign.
He was one of the first home grown players to thrive under current Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino.
Eventually he lost his place in the side the following campaign, partly due to injury, but his attitude and application impressed all of the coaching staff at Spurs. So much so that Mason went on to captain Tottenham in the Europa League against Fiorentina.
In the process the Enfield-born footballer achieved one of his dreams and even though he departed White Hart Lane in August 2016 for Hull, he is and always will be fondly remembered by the Spurs faithful.
The reason behind his retirement makes it all the sadder, especially considering it was such an innocuous incident – simply challenging for a header – and it also came out of the blue last Tuesday.
“It was a shock because everyone knew he was trying to make steps to get back to fitness and back into the swing of things and trying to get himself into contention again without fully knowing what the recovery process was like,” said Townsend.
“It kind of came as a bombshell that ultimately a young man who has so much more to offer in the game and so much more to achieve has had his career cut short.
“I can’t even begin to imagine what he must have gone through personally and knowing the family what they must have gone through as well and continue to go through now the decision has been made.
“Your heart just goes out to them all and well wishes just go to him and the family for the next stage of his career and development.”
Mason had so much more to give, but he did achieve something not many can say they have by playing for his country.
His only England cap was in a friendly match in Turin against Italy on March 31 2015 and he was joined in the squad by a number of Spurs players.
Roy Hodgson handed Mason his debut in the 74th minute and alongside him was club team-mates Andros Townsend, Harry Kane and Kyle Walker.
Mason managed to make his mark just five minutes after his introduction too when it was his tackle which allowed Townsend to control a loose ball, dribble towards goal and fire into the corner to secure England a 1-1 draw.
It was a proud moment for both families, Townsend senior said: “I suppose probably one of the pinnacles of Ryan’s career and definitely Andros’ was when Ryan made his debut for England and created the goal which Andros scored to level against Italy.
“The image of all the Tottenham lads at the time - Harry, Ryan, Andros and Kyle - all celebrating in England shirts together is an image which will stay with me for a very long time and it’s an image I’m sure will stay with those lads.
“It’s just a real sad way to end Ryan’s game, but ultimately you think of his age and he is so young and he is a new father and he has great support around him and we have to take the small things out of the massive decision to retire.
“I know there is the quote from Bill Shankly that there is nothing more important than football, but in moments like this you realise there is definitely more important things.
“Ryan has his health as much as he does and a great family backing to take him to the next stage of what he wants to do in his career.”