Mason was fighting for his life in 2017… now he's PL's youngest boss

New interim Tottenham boss Ryan Mason was fighting for his life four years ago after fracturing his skull playing for Hull against Chelsea – now he’s the Premier League’s youngest ever boss at just 29

  • Ryan Mason is in interim charge of Tottenham until the end of the season
  • Mason played in Tottenham’s last League Cup final against Chelsea in 2015 
  • Next weekend he will manager Spurs against Manchester City in this year’s final 
  • He suffered a career-ending head injury while playing for Hull in January 2017  

Ryan Mason was expecting to spend this week hunting for a way to watch Tottenham play in their first Wembley final since 2015, when he was in the team.

‘I’m not sure of the ticketing process and whether I would have been there,’ said Mason.

‘I would have definitely asked for a ticket and hoped of getting in there somehow.’

Ryan Mason has been placed in interim charge of Tottenham until the end of the season

As it turns out, the 29-year-old will be leading Spurs out for the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City on Sunday as the interim manager, thrust into the role and tasked with toppling the best team in the country to end a 13-year trophy drought.

First though, Southampton in the Premier League this evening, the first fixture since Jose Mourinho was sacked and Mason summoned from his role as head of player development to take charge for the rest of the season.

He will have help from Ledley King, Chris Powell and Nigel Gibbs but he could only describe the turn of events as ‘crazy’.

Mason played for Tottenham the last time they reached the League Cup final in 2015

From the seat where he gave a pre-match media briefing, he could see the Under 18s walking past to take on West Ham, aware he had planned to be with them rather than pleading ignorance about the European Super League and fielding questions on life at Tottenham after Mourinho.

Then again, if anyone knows how football can disrupt the best-laid plans, it is someone forced to retire as a player aged 26 after a fractured skull left him in need of emergency brain surgery and in a fight for his life.

‘What I went through was huge,’ said Mason. ‘I represented my country on the football pitch, which is huge as well, and I had to deal with an injury where there were difficult moments.

‘Retiring was very tough, it’s tough at the best of times. Nothing can prepare you for it. My main priority was to get my health back. I had my family around me and my partner had just had a baby. It put into perspective some of the things that were most important.

Mason had to retire after suffering a career-ending head injury while playing for Hull in 2017

‘I want to be positive. I want to be happy. I want to work hard and enjoy the moment and have experiences to look back on when I’m older. Maybe all those moments as a player have shaped me to be where I am today.

‘I feel comfortable. I feel in a good place and hopefully that can transmit to the players.’

Mason joined Spurs at the age of nine and, after various loan spells, made his breakthrough into the first team under Mauricio Pochettino, winning an England cap against Italy, in March 2015. Pochettino often cited a Mason goal, the equaliser in a League Cup tie against Nottingham Forest, as a turning point in his tenure following a sticky start at White Hart Lane.

The Argentine, now in charge of Paris Saint-Germain, came to visit Mason in hospital after the horrific head injury he suffered playing for Hull City at Chelsea in 2017 and was among the first to send best wishes this week.

He was still at the helm when Mason was invited back to Tottenham to rebuild his career in football as a coach in their academy. ‘I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do initially,’ he said.

‘I loved football, that’s all I knew and the club were great with me. John McDermott (then head of the academy) and the gaffer Mauricio welcomed me back. I came and got a feel for it and things just evolved.

‘In the last two and a half years, I’ve taken the Under 17s, Under 18s and Under 19s in the European competition, I’m involved with the Under 23s as well so it’s clear I want to be a coach.’

He is about to become the Premier League’s youngest manager, five years younger than captain Hugo Lloris — who is one of seven players in the squad who were team-mates of Mason on his last Spurs appearance five years ago.

Mason delivers instructions during his first training session in charge on Tuesday afternoon

He also steps in to replace Mourinho, a managerial legend of world football although never truly able to connect with Spurs fans and, by the end, at odds with several players.

‘It’s no secret I love this club,’ said Mason. ‘It’s in my heart. It’s in my blood. I’ve always felt a connection to the fans. I know what it’s like having them with you. That energy is just incredible, so powerful. Unfortunately, we don’t have them in the stadium but I want a Tottenham team to make our fans proud, so they enjoy watching us.

‘This football club needs to feel that energy. That’s how we work, that’s who we are. I want us to be brave and aggressive and play like Tottenham Hotspur.’ 

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