Mason Mount could be creative star England crave and is an outstanding talent
WE went into the international break hailing one England prospect with a surname beginning with M who has been strutting his stuff in the East Midlands – and came out of it raving about another.
They say a week is a long time in politics and the same can be said for football.
Just ask James Maddison.
The Leicester playmaker was the name on everybody’s lips when the England Under-21 squad met up for their two Euro 2019 qualifiers at home to Holland then away to Latvia.
Maddison has made a stunning start to the season at the Foxes following his £20million summer switch from Norwich.
There were whispers if he performed well against the Dutch kids on his old Carrow Road stomping ground then Gareth Southgate might call him up into the senior squad for their friendly against Switzerland at Leicester.
It seemed the stage was set for Maddison to kick on to the next level.
But things did not quite work out as planned as, despite tremendous backing from the Canaries regulars, he failed to live up to his top billing.
Maddison was subbed 14 minutes from the end of the goalless draw and Southgate called up his Leicester team-mates Demarai Gray and Ben Chilwell for the Swiss clash instead.
Under-21 boss Aidy Boothroyd admitted Maddison had probably “tried to do much” which was a fair assessment.
The player certainly had plenty of time to reflect as he found himself on the bench for the Young Lions in this week’s clash in Latvia.
There is no suggestion Maddison was dropped because of his over-enthusiastic display against the Dutch – as Boothroyd changed all 10 outfield players.
But the Foxes youngster’s halo slipped slightly as he was outshone by Mason Mount in Jelgava.
The Chelsea youngster spent last season on loan at Vitesse and was crowned Player of the Year.
The 19-year-old has continued to impress after Blues legend Frank Lampard secured his services for this campaign at Derby.
And Mount showed he has what it takes to become the creative star people are saying England are currently missing as he sealed a stunning full debut for the U-21s by setting up one goal and scoring the winner in their 2-1 victory in Latvia.
It was an outstanding performance on what was a pudding of a pitch.
Playing in a wide attacking role, the Portsmouth-born teen kept his feet and his head while all around him others were losing theirs.
It may have been his first start for the U-21s but he looked a class above this level.
His movement and decision-making were exceptional, matched only by his set-piece deliveries, including corners which he fizzed into Latvia’s penalty boss with perfect pace and trajectory.
And while we marvelled at his technical grace, far more impressive were his work-rate, determination and desire.
At 5ft 8ins, he is not exactly what you would call physically imposing.
His Latvian opponents knew that and tried to kick him off the park.
But despite receiving what boss Boothroyd described afterwards as “a bit of a hiding”, Mount never once moaned, let alone throw in the towel.
He just kept getting up, giving as good as he got.
His attitude, he insisted afterwards, was the result of being brought up in the tough dockyard city of Portsmouth and coached at an early age by his dad Tony, who drilled into his son at an early age the importance of doing football’s dirty work before the pretty stuff.
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Boothroyd, despite playing him wide, reckons Mount’s best position is as a No10.
Maddison wants to play there too.
But he may have to settle for a compromise in another role elsewhere if he wants a full England career, as in nine years of covering the U21s I have rarely seen a display like Mount’s, which instantly highlighted he is destined for the very top.
Ironically, the last one was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who you could see was class when I watched him net a hat-trick for the Young Lions in a 3-0 win over Iceland in Reykjavik back in 2011.
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Within a year he was playing for the seniors.
Coincidentally the Ox is from Pompey as well.
The only thing which may delay Mount’s inevitable pathway into the full England team is the season he is currently spending at Derby.
You cannot see Southgate selecting a player in the Championship on a regular basis.
But it will not be long before Mount rises to the summit of the England team as he is too good for the Rams and the U-21s.