In his first press conference of his second stint as Tottenham Hotspur acting head coach, Ryan Mason threw his hat into the ring to become Spurs’ next permanent manager. Mason, predictably, was asked whether he’d want the job, and Mason replied that he’s ready to take on the challenge, but that he’d have to earn it over the next six matches.
“Yeah obviously I’m ready and if that situation happens it obviously means I have done a good job. But that is obviously in the future of four five six weeks’ time, like I said the immediate thought is the game on Thursday and the game on Sunday. We have big weeks before anyone in here can start to think of that situation.”
A lot is already being made of Mason’s reply, with the pull quotes of “I’m ready” making the social media rounds this morning. It is a bit bold — Mason has yet to be a head coach at any level, though he’s now been a caretaker manager for Spurs twice, so he’s predictably catching a bit of flack for seeming to get out over his skis.
But it’s also a “gotcha” question — of course he wants to be Tottenham’s next manager. He’s been an assistant coach for five years now and has worked directly with both Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte, the latter as one of his top assistants. What’s he going to say? That he’s not ready? That he’s just keeping the seat warm for whomever Daniel Levy decides to bring in? Mason was appointed to steady the ship and exude an aura of confidence and stability in one of the most turbulent periods in Tottenham’s recent history. Of course he wants the job. Of course he’s going to say so.
That doesn’t mean that he’ll get it, even if he guides Spurs to six straight wins and a Champions League qualification finish, something that seems exceedingly unlikely at this point in time. Julian Nagelsmann isn’t much older than Mason, but he’s got vastly more top level experience. Arne Slot has done wonders with Feyenoord and appears ready for the next step.
That said... would it be completely shocking? If both Nagelsmann and Slot pass on the opportunity to manage Spurs, and if Mason does a capable job and displays over the next few weeks that he can turn things around even slightly, bring in players out of the cold, tactically innovate with the pieces he has in place now, and develop players, maybe he’d get a chance. I can’t say whether it’d be a good thing or not — Mason is the managerial equivalent of a Schrödinger’s cat — but I think I might be more interested in appointing him than, say, a Nuno Espirito Santo-like substance should it come to that point.
But that’s several miles down a road that Spurs may or may not be currently traveling down. First, there’s the matter of Manchester United visiting the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium tomorrow. Mason gave an injury update — Hugo Lloris’ (reported) muscle injury means that he’s currently questionable for tomorrow’s match, and both Ben Davies and Clement Lenglet are going to be assessed ahead of the match to see if either are ready to return.
“For the game on Thursday we are still unsure [about Hugo]. Obviously had a muscle problem so we are still seeing how that is settling down. Time will tell on that one.
“We’re going to review [Davies & Lenglet] today, we have training in the afternoon. We’re going to have to see them today. Both of them have been out. Clem came off in a game recently and Ben has been out for a period of time, so I think we will have a better idea on that one after training today.”
Mason was asked about the past — about Conte, and indirectly about Stellini and his dismissal in the wake of the 6-1 loss at Newcastle last weekend, as well as about Mauricio Pochettino who appears very likely to be named as Chelsea’s new manager next week. Mason smartly refused to comment about any of that, only saying for now what happens in the training ground stays in the training ground.
“I’m not going to get drawn into any comments on the past. My focus in on Thursday and Sunday. We’ve got six games before the end of the season to have a positive run. One thing I will say I believe in this group and this football club.
“The focus is on inside here. We won’t listen to and look at the outside noise. Because there’s going to be outside noise. We have to focus on our job and our job is to get results on football pitch, and my feeling is that comes from the training ground so that’s our only focus right now.”
But Mason’s biggest job in the short term is to get the fans back on board. To that end, he said the right things.
“I think from my point of view at the moment is to get some sort of energy and some sort of positivity back into the group. But not only the group, the fans and the club have to be realistic as well when you have two training sessions/three training sessions before two games. It’s hard to change a great deal but I would hope and expect towards the end of the season that everyone, not only inside but outside, will see my stamp and our stamp on the group.
“Listen, I have been involved in this football club a long time and my belief is that our fans are amazing and one of the best in the world. We want to get them on board and we want to get them with us. The only way to do that is to put in performances that warrant that. We understand that and we know that. I don’t think there’ll be any doubt that they’ll be with us on Thursday night.”
Tottenham kicks off at home against Manchester United tomorrow at 3:15 p.m. ET / 8:15 p.m. BST.