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Dublin: 9°C Saturday 15 May 2021

David Meyler: I'd love to see my friend Ryan lead Spurs to cup glory after witnessing his career-ending injury

In this week’s column, Meyler previews the Carabao Cup final and gives predictions for Leeds United v Man United.

Ryan Mason celebrating the win over Southampton with Hugo Lloris and Heung-Min Son on Wednesday.
Ryan Mason celebrating the win over Southampton with Hugo Lloris and Heung-Min Son on Wednesday.
Image: Adam Davy

EX-IRELAND INTERNATIONAL David Meyler is The42′s football columnist for this season.

Every Friday, the former Hull City and Sunderland midfielder will give expert insight and his predictions ahead of the weekend’s action, alongside the latest William Hill prices.

In his latest column, Meyler speaks about his former team-mate’s journey from early retirement to interim manager of Tottenham and gives his predictions on the EFL Cup final as well as Manchester United’s trip to Elland Road. 

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Man City v Tottenham, 4.30pm Sunday

Sunday, 22 January, 2017, is a day I will never forget. 

Hull City were playing Chelsea in a Premier League fixture at Stamford Bridge and I was named among the substitutes for the visiting team. 

In the 12th minute of the game, Pedro sent a cross into the box and a clash of heads between Gary Cahill and Ryan Mason left my team-mate on the ground requiring immediate treatment. 

At the time of the incident, I don’t think anyone — bar the medics who attended to him — could have known the severity of it.

After a lengthy stoppage in play, I was introduced as a replacement for Ryan. As he came past me on the stretcher, I just said something like ‘hope you’re okay, mate’. I remember thinking he might have suffered a concussion, but it turned out to be so much worse.

Thankfully, the doctors at Hull and Chelsea realised how serious the injury was and their quick response saw him rushed off to hospital. The players had no idea and only found out later that he had fractured his skull.

I would never have thought that was going to be the last time he played professional football.

Ryan needed 14 metal plates inserted into his skull along with 28 screws. 45 staples were also put in to hold together a six-inch scar on his head.

In the months that followed, I believe he had many conversations with experts and although his body could physically still play the game, he could not risk getting another bang to the head.

It must have been extremely difficult for him to retire a year later — at the age of 26 — and we’ll never be able to fully comprehend what he has gone through.

I used to sit next to Ryan in the dressing room. He is a great lad, very bubbly and a lovely fella to have around the place. He was a good trainer and a talented player too.

You could see why he was at Tottenham for such a long time. I think he came to Hull to establish himself playing regular football week in and week out, as opposed to starting games here and there.

When he joined us in 2016, we were excited because he was a record transfer fee for the club at the time and there were really high hopes for him to do well.

That opportunity was unfortunately taken away from him.

chelsea-v-hull-city-premier-league-stamford-bridge Ryan Mason moments after the injury that would prematurely end his career. Source: PA

Ryan always had a great eye and I’m not surprised he has gone into coaching. He dabbled in the media with talkSPORT and Sky Sports. From speaking to him, I think he enjoyed it but knew it wasn’t what he really wanted.

When a footballer steps out of the game, it is very hard to find the next buzz that you’re chasing. One of the things I miss most is waking up on a Saturday morning knowing you’ve a match to play. I did co-commentary on Hull-Sunderland this week and it brought a bit of that excitement back as both clubs are desperate to win promotion to the Championship.

That’s the competitiveness we love in sport. There’s a famous quote from Vince Lombardi: “winning is not everything, but wanting to win is”.

That’s the thing I miss most and I know Ryan did too.

He has chosen to go into coaching, which allows you to be out on the training pitch and to share moments with the players — whether that’s winning or losing.

Ryan has had various roles at Spurs, he was coaching the U19s and then became head of player development. Remarkably, he now finds himself as caretaker manager of the first-team after the departure of Jose Mourinho and his coaching staff this week.

Ahead of the Carabao Cup final this weekend, the timing comes as a surprise given he has won 12 out of 14 appearances in finals. A number of different stories explaining the reasons behind his exit have been written, but we don’t know the truth for certain.

There will understandably be question marks raised about Ryan’s appointment, given his age and lack of managerial experience at senior level. They could have chosen to give it to club legend Ledley King or Chris Powell — who are both currently involved in the set-up — but Ryan has been doing a lot of good work behind the scenes and they must think highly of him.

On Wednesday night, Ryan became the youngest manager in Premier League history at just 29 years of age. Attilio Lombardo’s spell with Crystal Palace (then 32) was the previous record. 

Ryan began his tenure with a 2-1 win over Southampton, which is a positive start — especially as they came back from a goal down. This is a huge opportunity and I am genuinely delighted for him. I really hope he does well. It will definitely be a learning curve as he has been thrown in at the deep end.

Ryan has played with some of the Spurs players. They will know him well and have his respect. Harry Kane is one of his close friends as the team-mates all the way up through the youth ranks .

Now Ryan is Harry’s manager and he will have to pick the 11 players he thinks can stop the Man City juggernaut when two clubs who were involved in the failed Super League breakaway meet on Sunday.

We saw Chelsea do it last week in the FA Cup semi-final, and that shows that City can be beaten but Pep Guardiola will still feel the treble is attainable as the league title is just about wrapped up and they have as good a chance as they ever will to win the Champions League.

It’s been a disappointing season for Spurs. They were poor in Europe and are outside the top four, but this EFL Cup could be a turning point. They could add a few players in the summer, and potentially a new manager. The Athletic Bilbao boss, Marcelino, has been linked as well as RB Leipzig’s Julian Nagelsmann.

I’m a romantic at heart. Ryan is a friend of mine and I still speak to him. I’d love to see him lift the cup with Tottenham — their first since 2008. At the same time, Man City know how to get the job done so I’m going with a 2-1 win for them.

Leeds United v Man United, 2pm Sunday 

manchester-united-v-leeds-united-premier-league-old-trafford Scott McTominay scored twice when Man United beat Leeds 6-2 in December. Source: PA

Man United were another club at the forefront of the Super League plans, which it is universally accepted were a horrible idea that would have been detrimental to football as we know it.  

As news broke that the English clubs were pulling out under pressure from fans, it was announced that Ed Woodward would be stepping down from his role as executive vice chairman at the end of the season. 

United claimed that was always the plan, but, given the timing of the press release, it’s hard to believe the fall-out from the proposals wasn’t at least partly to blame.

Maybe Woodward felt he was so invested in making the Super League happen that he needed to fall on his sword when it flopped.

I felt sorry for managers like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel being thrown under the bus last weekend. It was clear from their interviews they knew little about the plans and were put in a very awkward position.

On Solskjaer, I feel like he is starting to build a togetherness that United probably haven’t had since Alex Ferguson left.

Going into this game, it’s a historic fixture and Leeds are traditionally one of United’s biggest rivals. It is a shame that there will be no fans as it would have been great to see Elland Road packed out again.

There were eight goals when these clubs met back in December and I’m expecting it to be high scoring again because Leeds play an open, attractive system that has caught a lot of teams by surprise.

I think United have that little bit more quality going forward though, and I’ll back them to win 3-2.

 William Hill odds above correct at the time of writing. New online customers get €30 in free bets when they bet €10 with William Hill. Just use the promo code H30. For all the latest prices, visit williamhill.com. 18+, always gamble responsibly. For more information, see gamblingtherapy.org    

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