It seems strange to think that around eight months ago Ryan Mason wasn’t that far away from joining Swindon for a small fee after five years of waiting for Tottenham to give him a first-team breakthrough.
But having seen Andros Townsend rewarded for his patience following numerous loan stints in the lower leagues and Harry Kane given some Premier League minutes in the early matches of the season, 23-year-old Mason decided to persevere at White Hart Lane.
His opportunity came against Nottingham Forest in the Capital One Cup, where he stepped off the bench for the final 25 minutes with Spurs 1-0 down.
Within seven minutes he had equalised and then he set up Roberto Soldado to complete the turnaround. Spurs eventually won 3-1.
Mason has gone from strength to strength since and is almost the epitome of what Mauricio Pochettino demands from his central midfielders.
Energy doesn’t do Mason a disservice as he has run further than any other Spurs player this season and completed the most sprints, alongside registering the most forward passes.
His addition to the England squad for the Euro 2016 qualifier with Lithuania because of an injury to Adam Lallana is justified and hints that Roy Hodgson has aspirations of playing more positively.
England are 13/100 to simply beat Lithuania and a profitable-looking 6/5 to do so even when giving up a two-goal handicap.
Prior to the recent batch of withdrawals, Hodgson had dipped into the waters of Liverpool and Tottenham the most for this squad and it is no coincidence that these clubs are the biggest users of a high-tempo pressing game in the Premier League.
The philosophy of both Brendan Rodgers and Pochettino seems to be to win back possession in the final third, quickly get numbers forward to support attacks and catch the opposition before they have had enough time to re-gather their defensive shape.
England have potentially been guilty of building up too slowly under Hodgson in the past, with a reliance of Steven Gerrard to launch attacks from deep positions and Jordan Henderson prevented from taking risks in possession, instead playing it safe.
Like Henderson and Aston Villa’s Fabian Delph, Mason possesses the energy to continually press, but is perhaps better than this duo at doing what Aaron Ramsey does so well for Arsenal, which is getting beyond the strikers without being tracked back.
The problem at Tottenham is that they tend to line up without a true holding midfielder, which means he is sometimes not afforded the licence to get forward as much as would want to.
With Michael Carrick among the most positionally-disciplined midfielders in the Premier League at sitting in front of the back four, Mason won’t have such concerns for England, especially against an inferior Lithuania if he starts.
Mason is energetic, capable on the ball, possesses strong technique, and is intelligent in a football sense. His only real weaknesses seem to be a little bit of naivity in a positional sense and that he doesn’t score enough goals. He has two in 29 appearances for Spurs this season.