England boss Gareth Southgate has warned fans that they must open their eyes to the talent of Mason Mount and forget about his relationship with former Chelsea boss Frank Lampard.
Mount received unwarranted scrutiny during Lampard’s time at Stamford Bridge, with many fans – Chelsea and otherwise – believing that the 22-year-old was not good enough to play at the highest level, even calling him a ‘teacher’s pet’.
However, Lampard’s replacement, Thomas Tuchel, has been equally happy to use Mount, and Southgate confessed after the midfielder’s goalscoring showing against Albania on Sunday that it should be impossible to ignore Mount’s talent now.
“He is a very good player but I was saying this is in the autumn,” Southgate said. “Now Thomas Tuchel picks him, everyone will probably agree. But when it was Frank, it didn’t count for some reason.
“[Mason] is an exceptional player. He finds space intelligently, he manipulates the ball very well, he can create chances, he can score goals. I thought his performance was excellent but I thought Phil [Foden] was also very good. Our attacking four were good.”
Southgate has always defended Mount, even though some England fans chose to berate him for that last season, and he admitted that the 22-year-old is slowly becoming one of the players he simply cannot afford to rotate.
When asked whether Mount could start against Poland on Wednesday, Southgate replied: “Absolutely. We have looked after all the players in the first game [against San Marino]. His load coming into the camp [was low]. He didn’t play in midweek in the Champions League but, regardless of that, we are trying to win and qualify for a World Cup. I cannot be constantly thinking about rotating the squad.
“We have a lot of players missing and we have tried to protect our forward players through that first part of the week, and now we just have to get on and try to win the games.”
Sunday night was a big one for Mount, but it was a day to remember for winger Callum Hudson-Odoi, who was ruled out of England Under-21’s 2-0 loss to Portugal with a shoulder injury.
Fortunately, the 20-year-old injury is not thought to be too severe and he is in line to return to Aidy Boothroyd’s squad for Wednesday’s do-or-die meeting with Croatia.