Tottenham Hotspur interim manager Ryan Mason walked into a lion’s den this morning in his usual pre-match press conference, held just before tomorrow’s final home match of the season against Aston Villa. We knew this would happen as soon as the news broke about Harry Kane wanting to leave Spurs, and to nobody’s surprise the majority of the questions from football journalists were about Kane.
But to his credit, Mason handled the questions admirably, deflecting any commentary about Kane’s situation and trying to steer the topic back onto Wednesday’s match, which will have 10,000 Spurs fans in attendance.
“I speak to Harry pretty much every day. Before I got this job, I spoke to Harry pretty much every day. He’s excited, along with me, about tomorrow. Our only discussions have been about the game tomorrow, about the game at the weekend against Wolves. He’s excited. We’re all excited. We want to play in front of our fans. It’s a home game in the Premier League, and we know the importance of it. We’re looking forward to tomorrow.
“I think what we’ve seen with Harry over the course of this season, and all our players, they’ve been committed. Harry’s played I don’t know how many games, it must be pushing close to 50. I thought the weekend was an exceptional performance from him. Probably the best he’s been in the last five games. Obviously he got his goal but I thought his overall performance, his work-rate, his commitment, it was exceptional. I’m sure at the weekend, or sorry tomorrow evening, that will be no different.
“No I don’t think anything is awkward. There’s always speculation around the best players. There’s been speculation in the last three or four weeks about the new manager coming in, all these question marks. Which is normal When you’re at a big club that’s normal. Our focus – and I’ve said it all along – is on the next game. My mind hasn’t deviated from that, I’m sure Harry’s hasn’t. I’m sure in the rest of the group, every individual, their minds haven’t deviated from that. We’ve got to try to get the three points.”
This is a pretty high pressure situation for anyone to have to face, but to his credit Mason handled it admirably. It probably helps that as an interim manager he doesn’t really HAVE to be the club’s spokesperson on the matter of selling or buying players — his mandate is to get the team playing as well as possible until the end of the semester, which makes it both reasonable and expected for him to deflect any discussion of sensitive topics away. He did it with the Super League, and he’s doing it again for Kane, though you can certainly argue that it’s unfair that he’s been put in this kind of situation twice now in his short tenure.
In actual team news, Ben Davies continues to rehabilitate from an injury, one that Mason said last week could keep him out for the remainder of the season. Elsewhere, there’s a fitness doubt for Gareth Bale as well, but Serge Aurier seems to have recovered from his transferitis.
“Ben [Davies] is still out, Serge [Aurier] has returned to training with the group. There’s a couple of question marks from the game at the weekend so we’re going to have to assess them in the morning and see how they’re feeling.”
Wednesday’s match will be the first in months with actual fans in the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with 10,000 fans expected. With all that’s swirling around the club — managerial search, Super League backlash, supporter-led protests, and now Kane — it’s certainly going to be an interesting day of football.