Ryan Mason has had to deal with plenty of difficult questions during his month as Tottenham Hotspur’s interim head coach but he faced a new one this week.
The 29-year-old has had to be the immediate spokesman for the north London club on everything ranging from their controversial Super League involvement to the speculation surrounding Harry Kane and then the striker’s recent interview.
In his latest dealings with the media, Mason was asked directly if Spurs do not finish in the top six, how much of it will be his fault.
The young coach took over from Jose Mourinho with the club in seventh place in the Premier League table and that is where they sit going into the final match at top four-chasing Leicester City on Sunday.
Spurs could finish sixth if they win and West Ham lose at home against Southampton, but if Tottenham lose then they could finish as low as ninth and even be overhauled by their local rivals Arsenal.
After chuckling briefly at the directness of the question, Mason answered: “It’s a questions of ifs and buts, isn’t it at the moment? I can’t really answer questions on ifs and buts.
“I’ve been asked to do a job for for seven games, six Premier League games, so I guess you guys can be the judge of that. I’m not really going to sit here and think if this happens or that happens, I’ll answer questions because three points in the weekend can change people’s perception.
“I know what the game is like one minute, you win a game and it’s great. ‘He’s doing well’, then the next minute you lose and ‘he’s young, he’s naive’, so that’s normal.
“I’m not silly, I’ve been in the game a long time. I’ve watched football every day of my life. I know these things and hypothetical situations. We don’t know.”
Does Mason have more empathy for his predecessors at Spurs and other managers he has played for now he has been in the hotseat himself?
“No not really, I mean it’s part of the job, it’s part of being in a situation when you get time to build something, and then, I guess it’s on you,” he said.
“If you have time, then it’s up to you and if it doesn’t work out then you can’t have sympathy with people. Football is a business and we want results. When you’re in this industry, all it matters is the results, and you can’t really sympathise with people.
“I don’t think it’s a case of sympathy. No, if you’ve had time and it doesn’t work out then it’s unfortunate, isn’t it I guess?”
Having been at Tottenham since he was eight, Mason understands the rivalry with Arsenal more than most and he does not want to end a five year run of finishing above the Gunners.
“I understand the importance of it, of course. We’re disappointed where we are in the league, massively disappointed,” he said.
“We want to be better. I believe we will be better. Before Liverpool won the league, a few years ago, they finished eighth twice in the last decade so we would like to build something that gets us competing for the big stuff.
“The chairman wants that, he’s made that very clear. So hopefully, going forward, that can be the case.”
Mason’s background is in Tottenham’s academy, having worked within it for the past four years and becoming head of development for the U17s to the U23s last summer.
He has high hopes that the first team will have more players breaking through from the academy in the years to come with teenagers Dane Scarlett and Alfie Scarlett tipped to be the next to do so on a regular basis.
“Of course I would like to see [youngsters coming through]. I’ve no shame in saying that I think our fans would like to see it,” he said.
“The game the other night we had three players start in the match in the Premier League from the academy, which is good.
“Obviously, going forward, I hope that some of these [young] players can make the step up, I believe so 100 per cent, I think we’ve got the structure within the academy, we’ve got some excellent coaches.
“I’ve got some players with lots of potential as well so hopefully we’re sitting there in three to five years time, and there’s more players from the academy and players have made the step and making their mark on the first team.
“Absolutely 100 per cent that’s what I want. I know the club wants it as well. It takes time, you need to build something here. You need to have a structure, a way of working in place so yeah hopefully in years to come that will continue because we’ve been like that for, for a number of years now.”
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Mason was asked just how competitive it now is for a club like Tottenham to get the best young players into their academy and then keep through the levels until the first team.
“It depends what age you’re looking at. Of course, it’s very competitive, but I really believe that you can make players,” he said.
“If you get them in the building for long enough, you can nurture them, you can help them, you can make them learn, you can teach them, and I think we’ve done that. A lot of the players that have come through our system have been at the football club from the age of seven, eight or nine.
“So then it probably doesn’t become as competitive because at that age it’s more about where you want to be. Where do you enjoy going?
“I think if I’m a young player anywhere in England. if Tottenham calling then it’s appealing because we’ve got the history to back up the fact that we do care about our young players, whether that’s bringing them through here and making England internationals and the England captain, or making people get careers in other clubs.
“So I don’t think that’s a competition. It’s nothing that’s going to damage us. We’ve got good people here who care about our players, we’ve got the structure, we’ve got the people that can that can help younger players.”