The Journey so far
ANYONE who has navigated their way through academy football to the professional ranks knows the journey is rarely smooth.
From education distractions at school, having the character and ability to overcome challenges and then proving good enough in the senior ranks, the path is full of potential pitfalls.
When you come storming through the ranks at the highest level and are suddenly ranked among the world’s best by the age of 22, there can be a belief those challenges were not quite as difficult to overcome.
But the reality is the precocious need just as much support and commitment to fulfil their true potential – and perhaps face even more threats to their progression.
Mason Mount is one such young star.
In November the Chelsea midfielder was ranked 19th in the Ballon d’Or, worldwide confirmation that the youngster from Portsmouth is right up there among the best in the globe.
His acceleration in the three seasons he has been a senior player at Chelsea has been swift, and at times faced unwarranted criticism that he was a teacher’s pet for managers.
The truth is that Mount has earned the trust and support of managers such as Thomas Tuchel, Frank Lampard and Gareth Southgate because of the core beliefs instilled in him as a youngster.
"Mason is very self driven, knows what he wants to achieve"...
The player has spoken openly about the support he received from coaches at Chelsea, the club he joined at the age of six, and also of the frank and honest guidance given to him by his family.
Put simply, it has been drilled into him that nothing comes without total commitment, graft and staying humble.
Father, Tony Mount said: “Mason is very self driven, knows what he wants to achieve and knows where he wants to go as a player.
“Mason keeps himself grounded, works very hard every day and knows nothing is given to you, he knows he has to train every day as if it’s his last ever training session and to be the best.”
Worldwide fame is easy to take for granted when you are one of the key players in the best team in Europe, and a regular international since the age of 20.
Yet Mount’s reaction to even making the shortlist for the world player of the year indicates the lessons of his upbringing form the backbone of what makes him so special.
Though he has taken things in his stride, he still relates everything to his childhood when he was essentially just a huge football fan like all the youngsters who love the game around the country.
The England star said: “To be involved in something like this and to be selected to be in a category of 30 players of such standing is such a special achievement.
“I set goals and I want to achieve big things, but I didn’t ever think this would happen after two or three seasons. It’s blown my mind.”
“To see my name alongside the names I’ve looked up to all my life is crazy, Messi in particular.
"When I was younger I was a ball boy during a Barcelona and Chelsea match at Stamford Bridge and seeing him up close was amazing."
There is a humilty and niceness about Mount that is refreshing, but also covers a player prepared to face the biggest challenges when there are easier available.
It is why at the age of six he decided to turn away the advances of his boyhood club Portsmouth, local Premier League team Southampton and opt to push himself by committing to the 90 minute journeys to south London and Chelsea instead.
And why, when there were other options available to him at the age of 17, he decided to move out of the comfort zone by spending a year alone in a foreign country on loan at Vitesse Arnheim.
Mount senior explains the sacrifices the family and his son have made to get him where he is today. He said: “It was a total commitment from us as a family to ensure he was always at training and available for every match, supporting him when selecting the club he wanted to train and play for when it would have been easier to have him join a club much more locally.
“The move to Vitesse is another example of Mason being prepared to step outside the comfort zone.
“To have to live in a foreign country on your own and prove you are good enough and ready to play first team football and show you have the mental strength, determination and belief in your ability to force your way to become player of the season, it is an example of the kind of decisions young players have to make.”
The Dutch loan was followed by a year at Derby, where he impressed enough to earn an England call-up, and then came the chance to prove himself at Chelsea under Lampard.
It is a path familiar to young players across the country, but one not always negotiated with such success.
So what advice does his father have for those now making their way through the development systems throughout the pyramid, and their families doing the hard yards to help them on the journey?
“Believe in your ability, stay driven, committed & focused, be prepared for the lows as well as the highs, never get too carried away.
“As a parent you have to be there for them, know when to encourage and when to praise, always give your opinion but in a constructive manner.”
Such commitment is what families do, and football is a sport which can produce magic moments that make it all worthwhile. Seeing Mount and his father in tears after the Champions League final victory over Manchester City is a case in point.
The midfielder said: “My dad just came down from the stands and I burst into tears when I saw him.
“It’s a long, long journey to get to this moment here, I thank my family for everything, they’ve given me everything and now I’ve got the rewards.”