My pride for Harry and this inspirational England team - Ryan Mason
Sat 10 July 2021, 09:30|Tottenham Hotspur
Ryan Mason has known Harry Kane for the best part for 15 years. As a team-mate, friend and Head Coach, he’s been there for some of the pivotal moments of Harry’s career. On Sunday, he’ll be bursting with pride as his great friend becomes only the second captain to lead England out in a major final, 55 years after Bobby Moore lifted the World Cup.
This is a professional and personal relationship that goes back to 2008. Ryan was there when Harry made his debut for our Under-18s, a 4-2 win against Leicester City on 14 March 2009. Ryan scored twice in a 4-2 win. Ryan was also on target when Harry scored his first goal for the Academy in a 4-1 win against West Ham on 2 May 2009.
Fast-forward five years, and the pair broke through together in Mauricio Pochettino’s first season, 2014/15. They both scored off the bench in a 3-1 win against Forest in the League Cup on 24 September 2014 and Ryan was there again when Harry came off the bench to score arguably the most important goal of his career, the winner at Villa in the Premier League on 1 November. He’s been a fixture in the team since that day, scoring 221 goals in 336 appearances.
The pair continued to share key moments. Ryan started when Harry gave notice of his future path to the footballing world when he scored twice against Chelsea in a 5-3 win at the Lane on New Year’s Day 2015. Ryan was there for Harry’s first north London derby goal, his first Premier League hat-trick and first cup final, the League Cup against Chelsea on 1 March 2015. They were back at Wembley six years later for the same final against City this April, Harry by then on 219 goals for Spurs, Ryan as our Interim Head Coach.
Ryan was also there when Harry made his full England debut on 31 March 2015, coincidentally, against Italy. Just days after a dream debut off the bench and a goal 72 seconds into his senior international career against Lithuania, Harry started in Turin, where he was up against Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, who he will doubtless do battle with again on Sunday. Ryan was introduced in the second half for his first and only England cap. Andros Townsend equalised in a 1-1 draw.
Ryan was at England’s Euro 2020 semi-final win against Denmark on Wednesday evening and will there again for the final against Italy on Sunday. Just how will he feel when he sees his friend lead out the Three Lions for only their second major final ever? Remember, the first England international was all the way back in 1872.
“I can probably speak on behalf of every Englishman and woman, it’s pride, and more so because I’ve been on a lot of the journey with him,” said Ryan, back at Hotspur Way in his role as Head of Player Development having led the team for the final seven matches of last season.
“Harry has been one of my better mates for the best part of 15 years now, a long time. We’ve had a lot of experiences together and to be at Wembley, to watch England play in a major tournament... I’m not saying it’s once in a lifetime, but it’s certainly once every 25 years. To see it anyway is special, but to see Harry lead the team out, knowing what a proud Englishman he is, is amazing, inspirational.
“Harry is an example to our younger lads. We’ve the England captain at our football club, so that’s great for everyone, and he’s a constant professional who sacrificed so much to get to the top.
“I remember when he first joined the Academy back in 2008. My first thoughts... a goalscorer, an obsessive goalscorer. He’s changed physically since then, but he’s always been a goalscorer, an intelligent player. Maybe it’s only since last season when he had most assists in the Premier League that people recognised what a great passer of the ball he is, but he’s always been a technical expert, whether that’s a laced pass over 50 yards or a back foot pass from 10 yards, Harry’s got all the clubs in his bag.
“What you see now, humble, hard working, passionate, loves football, is pretty much everything you want when you see young kids walk into the building, they are the ones who tick all the boxes. It’s not just that easy, you have to be dedicated, sacrifice things as well, have difficult moments, there are down sides as well that come with being a footballer but if you have the belief and keep working with the relentless mentality Harry has, then good things will always follow. When you have to fight for everything and earn everything, you create habits that are instilled into you, and they last a lifetime. Everything you get, you earn. That’s a good way to be.
“Away from football, what you see is what you get, humble, hard working, honest, loyal, great family around him. Anyone who watches football probably has that opinion of Harry. That says a lot, especially in the world we live in now, social media and access to everything. Harry plays his football, scores his goals, and does his job. You don’t see anything else from him out there. That says a lot about the person.”
The final against Italy will no doubt trigger memories of that night in Turin in 2015 when Ryan joined three Spurs team-mates - Harry, Andros and Kyle Walker - wearing the Three Lions' shirt.
Ryan added: “Your England debut is always going to be special, but to do that with Harry, Andros, who I’ve been close to for 20 years, plus Kyle Walker, my team-mate, wow, that’s pretty special. It meant an incredible amount when I got that cap. To be honest, I thought I’d get more. It’s only when you retire, and I had to retire at 25, that you think, ‘I’ve got an England cap, I represented my country’ and that means so much.
“I’m English through and through. I’m going to Wembley and I’m getting goosebumps watching the team play. I’m so emotionally invested in the group and it’s amazing to think I had an opportunity to represent England on a football pitch. That doesn’t leave you, for sure.
“I’ve also played with quite a few of the lads in the current squad, and more I haven’t played with, but I feel connected to that group. It’s almost like watching a club team. I’m watching Declan Rice, for example, and I’m thinking, ‘you look so proud to be playing for your country’ and that goes for all of them, even the lads on the bench who haven’t played. I just hope it inspires a generation of kids to put the game consoles down, go out and play football. Pretend to be Harry Kane or Jack Grealish or whoever, because that’s what it’s all about.”