Ryan Mason hopes Tottenham’s performances on the pitch can help unite the club after fans protested against chairman Daniel Levy and the club’s owners ahead of Wednesday’s 2-1 victory over Southampton.
Around 100 disgruntled supporters gathered at the stadium to voice their displeasure at Spurs’ involvement in the failed European Super League breakaway plans which had added to a tumultuous 72 hours at the club.
Mason was thrust in charge against Saints following Jose Mourinho’s sacking on Monday, which was sandwiched in between plans to join the ESL and then the decision to pull out after heavy criticism for the project.
Once attention finally returned to football, Spurs overcame a slow start to come from behind and claim an important win that keeps hopes of Champions League qualification alive.
Danny Ings put Saints ahead in the first half, but Gareth Bale’s fine finish and a late Heung-Min Son penalty ensured Spurs began life after Mourinho with a win – their first this season when trailing at half-time.
Asked what he thought of the fans’ protests, Mason said: “First of all I can’t have an opinion because I wasn’t aware of that, we didn’t see it from the coach so I can’t comment on that.
“But the most important thing is to create a good energy around the place. Obviously when you are winning matches that does help, but more importantly the performance in the second half is where we want it to be. Thankfully we have got the win and we can look forward to tomorrow now.”
Spurs were one of six English clubs to quickly reverse their decision to join the controversial ESL following a severe backlash.
In Mason’s defence, he has been otherwise occupied over the last couple of days as he made the jump from academy coach to interim head coach and used that as an excuse to sidestep the issue.
“I’ll be honest, I said this all along, I really can’t have an opinion on it, because in the last 48 hours, I’m sure you can respect the fact that my mind, my energy has been fully involved in this game, in preparing for this game,” he added.
“And likewise now the game’s done I’ll enjoy it for a few moments, but my energy is on training tomorrow and preparing the team for the weekend.
“I’ll be honest, the outside noise I’ve completely shut out, and my full focus is on preparing the group of players to win football matches.”
It was a fairy-tale evening for Mason, who joined Spurs as an eight-year-old and was cruelly forced to retire as a player aged just 26, winning his first game in charge.
“First of all the feeling is a massive relief,” he said. “It’s been a whirlwind the last two or three days but thankfully we got the win and most importantly I felt second half we were outstanding.
“The performance, the commitment, the energy was brilliant because I thought in the first half, we found it very difficult.
“It was quite tough to get out and they were very good. They created some chances. Hugo (Lloris) pulled off two world-class saves for us but I thought as the game wore on, we gained control of it and I thought there was only one team that was going to win the match.”
Mason’s promising start hints at Spurs’ potential
Sky Sports’ Peter Smith:
The fairy-tale story of Ryan Mason taking charge of Tottenham at the age of just 29, given all he has been through in recent years, has been lost this week, buried beneath anger and cynicism about the Super League and the ultimate aims of Europe’s largest clubs. A pre-match protest by Spurs supporters was a clear show of the distrust they currently have for chairman Daniel Levy.
But Mason’s story is one which deserves attention – and if he can continue to influence this Spurs side like he did at half-time on Wednesday, focus will rightly start to fall on his emerging coaching talent.
While the first-half performance was underwhelming, bordering on worrying – Spurs failed to register a shot on target, the first time they had done that in the opening 45 minutes of a league game at home this season – the transformation after the break was significant and credit to Mason’s impact in the dressing room.
He had spoken before the match about shaking off the restraints which had been so evident under his predecessor, and while the first 45 bore similarities of what we have watched over recent months, in the second half Spurs shifted their style closer to his vision, playing with more authority, belief and confidence.
They will need plenty of those latter two traits when they go to Wembley on Sunday to face Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final yet, while their fortunes may well depend on the fitness of Harry Kane, or Gareth Bale coming up with another clinical finish, Spurs supporters are at least likely to see a team approach the test in a manner they are more historically accustomed to.
That’s what Mason’s side delivered in the second half against Southampton, that’s his plan for his spell in charge, and, amid all the important off-field developments, whether he can pull that off – as the youngest manager in Premier League history – will be an intriguing storyline to follow on the pitch in the final weeks of the season.
History repeating for Hasenhuttl
While Spurs somehow still have one eye on the top four, Southampton are looking over their shoulders after a 12th Premier League defeat in 15 games.
They are six points above the drop zone and boss Ralph Hasenhuttl is tired of his side repeating the same mistakes.
“The way we lost the game we cannot be more hurting to be honest. In the first half we must be three up and in the second half, especially the last 30 minutes, we did not have the game we wanted,” he said.
“The way we gave them the goals is always the same issue. We don’t clear the ball from the corner, we make a stupid foul in the last minute and we concede a goal we never should. Then all of the work you put in is gone and it’s hard to take.”
Southampton’s evening went downhill after Ings went off injured early in the second half and Hasenhuttl was not up to speed about the severity of the injury.
“Hopefully he is not too injured but I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know his situation.”