Ryan Mason has admitted that Mauricio Pochettino opened his eyes to plenty of new things during their time together at Tottenham Hotspur.
The Argentine made Mason a regular in his Tottenham team not long after taking the reins in 2014 and then after the midfielder suffered his career-ending head injury at Hull, Pochettino was there among others when he woke up in hospital and later helped him get into coaching back at Spurs.
Pochettino, now manager of PSG, believed in a ‘universal energy’ and a positivity which he felt helped guide people’s lives and 29-year-old Mason clearly took some of that line of thinking on board.
“I think energy is important and it’s important that it’s a good energy,” said Spurs‘ interim head coach. “Mauricio opened my eyes to a lot of things, him and his coaching team opened my eyes to a lot as a player and as a person as well. It’s important.
“If you’re doing something, you need to feel good, you need to be mentally in the right place to work and to compete. Yeah, it’s so important that we try and transmit this kind of feeling to each other, to our players, to the groundsmen, to the cleaners, everyone.
“When you get that feel good energy, the running doesn’t seem as hard, the competition doesn’t seem as hard, it’s a key to any environment to work well, not just in football but in life as well. Whether it’s at home with your kids, with your family – you need to be happy, you need to feel good, for sure.”
While Jose Mourinho‘s critics would often claim he was too concerned with the opposition and stopping them, Mason believes the weight of preparation has to fall with Tottenham’s talents.
“I respect any team we come up against. I respect managers, I respect players, I respect football clubs. It wouldn’t be right of me if I didn’t spend and invest a lot of energy and a lot of my time trying to figure out how they want to play and go about certain things in certain moments,” he said.
“I focus a lot on Leeds. I focused a lot on Sheffield United. Every game that we play, there will be a lot of focus on the opposition but also there has to be more focus on us because we have some very good players.
“I am sure they will be thinking about us as well. We respect them massively, we respect everyone we come up against but we have to focus on us.
“It is about how we are going to try and implement our style, how are we going to win this game of football, because if we don’t have that, then it is going to be very difficult to win a game of football. Massive respect to any team we come up against but also a lot of energy invested in us, that is for sure.”
Mason has won both of his Premier League matches so far at the helm and takes his team to Leeds United on Saturday looking to keep them in the hunt for European qualification and faint hopes of a top four spot.
In the 4-0 victory against Sheffield United, Mason gave the Spurs fans the rare sight of Gareth Bale, Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Dele Alli all playing together.
“I feel very lucky to have not only those four but the rest of the attackers as well,” he said. “We have so many options in those positions, it is difficult to pick and choose.
“They are all such good professionals, such good guys, who all want to work to help the team.
“Last week the front four worked, the whole team worked. It’s important we also remember the importance of the midfield and back line, it’s a team effort.
“I’m very pleased with Gareth’s goals and Sonny’s as well, but it was a collective effort that allowed us to get into those positions.
“This week we’ve seen it again in the training, all of the attackers have worked well and that’s the way it has to be.
“When you’re at a big club there is always competition for places. You can never feel entitled to start at any moment because that’s not the mentality you want.”
With the end of the season approaching it’s natural that some thoughts might turn to not only the Euros but also the players’ futures.
Mason’s predecessor Jose Mourinho spoke to players about their futures and what they wanted to do but for the young interim boss this brief period is all about the now and he doesn’t need to focus the players’ attention on the task ahead.
“I don’t need to have these conversations. When you’re a professional footballer, you’re paid to come in and train and work,” he said.
“These guys we have are the most professional guys you’ll see in the game. Gareth’s had a career that’s been incredible, he still wants to come in and work.
“His mind, his focus I’m sure is on the moment. It has to be. I say it all the time but if you’re involved in football, it would be very silly to look ahead weeks or months because it doesn’t work like that.
“This game is so intense, it’s ruthless and you have to be ready every day to work, compete and these guys have shown that their mind is solely focused on the next training session, the next classroom meeting, the next gym session and the next game. It has to be that. So I don’t feel like it’s necessary to be having those conversations with these top professionals, no.”
Mason comes up against Marcelo Bielsa this weekend, another experienced coach after Pep Guardiola in the Carabao Cup final to add to his sudden introduction to life at the helm, but the young coach is only focused on the pitch not the opposition dugout.
“I am enjoying the challenge of preparing our team, our football club to win matches. My mind isn’t on me, it isn’t on who I am coming up against because it is not that,” he said.
“It is Tottenham Hotspur against Leeds United, that is all it is. That is all it is. That is my focus. It is not about me, it has never been about me and it never will be about me. It is about the football club. I want to prepare this football club to win matches.”