Ryan Mason admits he thought he would be in the prime of his playing career at 29 rather than being appointed interim head coach of Tottenham.
Mason has taken the temporary reins until the end of the season following Jose Mourinho’s sacking on Monday and now leads a club he joined as an eight-year-old.
Not 30 until June, Mason was forced to retire in 2018 after suffering a sickening head injury which almost killed him while playing for Hull, but less than two years after being appointed as the head of player development, he is now overseeing the rest of Tottenham’s season.
He is thrown in at the deep end, with a Premier League game against Southampton followed by the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City on Sunday, and he has vowed to give it his all for a club that is in his heart.
“I think it’s no secret that I love this football club,” he said. “To spend 20 years of my 29 years involved with this football club, it’s in my heart, it’s in my blood, of course it is.
“I’ve always felt a massive connection with the fans of the club. I’ve always had a great connection with anyone who works in the club. And that’s important. I’ve always felt loved.
“One thing I can guarantee is that I’ll give my all in the next seven games to prepare players to win football matches. The pride I feel is amazing. It’s one of those where I’ll probably not be able to take it in until the season’s done, but of course at the moment I feel immense pride.
“I thought I’d still be playing football, I’m probably in my prime to be honest of footballing ability. But football is a crazy, crazy sport.
“It’s bizarre, I experienced so much as a player, I had to deal with so much, having the serious injury, fighting for my life, coming back, having to retire, coming back to this great football club and representing them as a coach and learning – it’s crazy.
“The fact I am representing this football club and the fact I get the opportunity to walk us out at our beautiful stadium is a great honour.”
Spurs endured an alarming slide after a promising start to the season under Mourinho and by the end of the Portuguese’s reign there were all the usual hallmarks that defined exits at Chelsea and Manchester United.
Another big problem Mourinho faced was his style of play, with fans unhappy at his negative tactics, with such an array of attacking talent at his disposal.
Mason has vowed to play in a way that is traditional with the club.
Asked what his style of play will be, he replied: “I’d hope to think it’s what a Tottenham Hotspur side would historically look like.
“I want us to be brave and aggressive, to play like Tottenham Hotspur. With such a short turnaround with games at the moment, the most important thing is to get the players in a right frame of mind, to give them some key principles in how we want to approach games of football and then hopefully as that goes on that can develop.”
Playing in that manner could be made more difficult by the likely absence of Harry Kane in Wednesday’s clash with Southampton.
The England captain, who is a close friend of Mason, is struggling with an ankle injury suffered in Friday’s 2-2 draw with Everton and has not trained since.
Mason could not say whether Kane would be fit for Sunday’s Carabao Cup final but hopes he will not be out for long.
“I am not sure currently, he didn’t train (on Tuesday),” the 29-year-old said. “We are taking it day by day. We are not sure about the weekend yet, but we know he is working extremely hard to get over this injury.
“I think with any injury you just take it day by day. Harry’s a professional, he’ll be doing all he can to get fit as soon as possible. It’s one of those, there’s no timescale on it. But hopefully Harry won’t be out for too long.”