AS the door closes for Jose Mourinho, another one opens for Ryan Mason.
The Special One was sensationally sacked by Tottenham on Monday, after just 17 months in charge, despite leading the club to an EFL Cup final.
Leading the team out at Wembley next weekend will be former Spurs kid Mason, 29, who was forced to retire from a serious head injury, and will lead the team with Chris Powell for an interim period.
The former Tottenham youth product returned to the club last season and has been overseeing the next generation of Spurs players in the academy.
He’s a (young) man who knows the club inside out.
SPURS YOUTH STAR
North London-born Mason joined Spurs at the tender age of eight, climbing through the ranks to sign a professional contract in 2008.
That same year he made his debut for the Premier League giants – coming on as a sub for David Bentley in a 1-0 Uefa Cup win away against Dutch club NEC.
In the 2008-09 Premier Academy League, Mason was top scorer with 29 goals in 31 games from midfield.
First team experience became vital for the young talent.
So, he was sent out on loan to Yeovil Town, Doncaster Rovers, Millwall, French club Lorient, and Swindon Town.
POCH BELIEVED IN HIM
In 2014, Mason impressed new boss Mauricio Pochettino during a US preseason tour enough to be included in first team affairs.
He handed him a start against Nottingham Forest in the League Cup in a 3-1 win for Spurs – a game in which he scored his first goal for the club.
Later that week, Mason was given his Premier League debut against Arsenal – playing a starring role in a 1-1 draw at the Emirates.
The defensive midfielder became a first team regular under Pochettino, and was a starter the last time Spurs reached a cup final in 2015 – a disappointing 2-0 defeat by Chelsea.
In 2016, Mason captained Spurs for the very first time in a Europa League tie against Fiorentina.
He scored in a 3-0 second leg win and was the darling of Spurs fans.
In Spanish journalist Guillem Balague’s book A Brave New World, about Pochettino, the Argentinian coach calls Mason a “very special player, a very special person”.
A KINSHIP WITH KANE
Mason’s emergence at Spurs coincided with the rise of their greatest striker since Gary Lineker.
The pair were famous friends, who came into the side together under Pochettino and gave Spurs fans something to shout about with their all-action performances.
Both homegrown talents, they were immersed in the history of the club and that was recognised on the pitch with how they played with one another.
They embraced Pochettino’s approach, and bought into the new regime.
Fittingly, they both would become first team regulars, captain the side, and earn international honours.
CAPPED BY ENGLAND
Mason’s form for his club didn’t go unnoticed at international level.
In 2015, he received his first call-up to the senior England team for a European qualifier against Lithuania and a friendly against Italy.
He made his debut against the latter in the Juventus stadium, delighting Spurs and Three Lions fans with an assist for an Andros Townsend goal.
It was, though, the only time he played for England.
TO HULL AND BACK
In 2016, Spurs accepted a £13million bid from Hull City for Mason, who had suffered a dip in form.
He made his debut against Burnley away, before becoming a first team regular.
His first goal for the club came in a EFL Cup win over Stoke.
However, his career in East Yorkshire would only last 20 games.
A horrific injury in a Premier League game against Chelsea, after a clash of heads with Gary Cahill would end his career.
Mason fractured his skull in the incident with Cahill and underwent a serious operation.
14 metal plates were inserted into his skull held together with 28 screws and 45 staples – to save his life.
Aged just 26 – he was forced to retire.
This season, Wolves’ Mexican forward Raul Jimenez suffered a similar fate against Arsenal back in November and has been out of action since.
The incident reminded Mason of his own misfortune.
Mason told the Between The Lines podcast: “I was so, so lucky to stay alive.
“It was very touch and go and I almost lost my life.”
He also talked about the after-effects, including things he might have taken for granted beforehand.
He revealed: “I could have a list of so many things that actually affected me for so long afterwards, and sometimes I forget, so I’ve got it all written down.
“I was sleeping for like 20 hours a day… I couldn’t really hold a conversation.
“When the brain gets an injury, the body just instinctively responds and it almost shuts everything else down.
“The main focus is on making sure the brain’s OK, because it is fundamental to how we live as humans.
“The body invests so much energy into recovery.”