Wednesday, April 24, 2019
Home Sport New Tottenham stadium test event LIVE: Spurs U18s vs Southampton U18s as...

New Tottenham stadium test event LIVE: Spurs U18s vs Southampton U18s as £ 1bn ground stages first match

Mason takes center stage at Tottenham's new stadium

Tottenham midfielder has found a new path in football, through coaching.

Mason was forced to retire in February last year, aged just 26, after suffering a fractured skull for Hull 13 months earlier. He's in the Dugout for the first match at the club's new stadium, as the Under-18's face Southampton in a test event in front of 30,000 supporters.

For Mason, the excitement of the occasion wants to be tinged with regret.

"Every match I watch will be bittersweet," he says. "I always want to hurt, I'll always miss competing. That's what my whole life and that burning desire is not just going to leave me. But I'm lucky – people coaching for 15 years do not get opportunities like this. "

The specifics of Mason's career-ending injury are horrific. Chelsea's Gary Cahill in January 2017 and he was unresponsive for 30 seconds. He now lives with 14 metal plates in his skull and, for the one-cap England international, returning to the sport has not been a choice as much as a necessity.

Mason, who is working towards his Uefa A-license, says: "To retire in those circumstances, mentally, I could deal with the situation. "I think about it every day. I do not think I'll ever be able to get over it. But time is the best healer and the most important thing is I stayed in football. I'm so passionate about it, I could not be involved. But that does not change that my career was taken away far too soon. I should be in my prime, achieving great things, but that's the card I've been dealing.

"I do not have to coach. Football is a very rewarding game at the highest level. I'm doing it because I have a passion. I always said to myself that when I stopped playing I would go back and coach at Tottenham. "

Mason returned to non-contact training at the start of the last year and doctors warned that any kid on the ball, even heading a ball, could be fatal. "There's a lot of things I can not do, things you take for granted," he says. "I wake up dizzy and I can not walk for days.

"But there's so much I can do. Most importantly, I can run. When my kids grow up I can play them in the garden, so it will not affect their lives. I'm so lucky to be alive. That's always in the back of my mind. "

As a player, Mason had Mauricio Pochettino to thank for his breakthrough in 2014, and the coaching of the Argentine and his staff was so effective, Mason doubts he would have made a positive recovery without them.

"I strongly believe I have not been able to deal with the situation. "The messages they were sending: to be positive, to be strong, to trust your body, have gone such a long way. I take them into every aspect of my life. I can still hear the gazer saying, 'You're a strong boy, Mase'. It's funny, I'm 27 but I like being a child. I can take as much as I can. When I'm watching their sessions, I feel like a pupil. "

Mason, though, is almost becoming a master in his own right and he has assumed more responsibility since Spurs U-18's coach Matt Wells joined Fulham a fortnight ago. He wants to discuss replacing Wells with Academy chief John McDermott, who wants to join him in the dugout on Sunday at the end of the season, but he's in no rush to be a first-team manager. He is committed to Spurs long term but his immediate focus is the belated opening of the stadium.

"Everyone is excited," he says. "When the fans see it in person, they'll appreciate what a project it's been and what a fantastic job everyone's done. The atmosphere is going to be electric and I can not wait for the first first-team game when our fans are back home. Wembley's tough – it was never home. The club can go back to White Hart Lane, where there are so many great memories, in a fantastic, modern stadium. I'm excited just thinking about it. "

For Mason, like the club he has joined seven years ago, the opening is another step into a bold new era. "I'm not keen to make the most of the opportunity because I'm in a great position," he says. "To be a coach at Tottenham, with the recent history of bringing young players through, is absolutely ideal. Of course, I want to play every week, but I'm going to be coaching in the first game at an incredible stage to hopefully kick-start a successful period for the club. "

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