Mason Mount's rise to Chelsea talisman no surprise to Ashley Cole
Former Chelsea defender Cole remembers a player who caught the eye in youth team and excelled as a teammate at Derby
While Ashley Cole has accepted the job of coaching Chelsea’s Under 15s now, perhaps his preparation began when he was still in their first team. “After training I used to go and watch the young kids,” said England’s most-capped left-back. One, in particular, caught his eye, a player who was 15 when Cole left Stamford Bridge, but who had already appeared for Chelsea’s Under 18s.
Cole was swift to recognise Mason Mount’s natural talent. “He had the qualities but of course you don’t know how they are going to develop and if they have the mentality,” reflected the 38-year-old. His questions have been answered by Mount’s subsequent progress, any doubts assuaged by witnessing the midfielder’s displays when they were Derby County teammates last season: Mount as a loanee, Cole before he was a retiree.
Mount is the personification of a new ethos at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea’s first 11 league goals this season were scored by academy graduates. Mount delivered the first of Frank Lampard’s reign, drilled in from 20 yards against Leicester City. He scored again in his mentor’s first win, with an unstoppable shot at Norwich City. He sealed the vindicating 5-2 victory over Wolves with a classy strike.
He has kept the £58 million (Dh262m) signing Christian Pulisic out of the team, overshadowed the much-decorated pair of Pedro and Willian and compensated in part for Eden Hazard’s departure. He has been a revelation, but not a surprise. Or not to Cole, anyway. “I saw the quality he played with at Derby last season,” he said. “I always said to him and to anyone I spoke with: ‘This kid is good enough to play in the Premier League.’”
He also saw Mount’s catalytic impact at Pride Park. Derby averaged 0.56 points per game more when Mount played: an impressive 1.74 with him, a mediocre 1.18 without. “You could see when he didn’t play how important he was for us,” Cole added. His significance to Chelsea was apparent when Lampard rushed him back to face Liverpool last weekend. Mount is averaging as many shots and key passes a game as Mohamed Salah, plus more dribbles. They are different players in different teams, but new man is starting to become a talisman.
Crucially, Cole thinks Mount has allied ability with the right approach. “Every day his attitude and his application was always 100 per cent so when you have someone like that with that quality on the ball and then you see their mentality, they want to win, they want to run, they want to fight: for me, they have got a big, big career ahead of them.”
Another to impress Cole at Derby was Fikayo Tomori. If the centre-back caught the eye with a spectacular goal at Wolves, his excellence at the back against the Champions League winners on Sunday was probably more instructive.
“After training, he was always willing to ask questions and if I gave him feedback, he listened,” the older defender recalled. “He did not blow me off because these kids know how hard you have to work to make it in a top club. He is like a sponge. He listens to everything and takes everything on board.”
Chelsea are yet to win a league game at Stamford Bridge under Lampard, but supporters have endorsed the change of philosophy at a previously pragmatic club. “I think it is difficult, would another manager have brought young kids in?” Cole wondered. “There are quality young players at Chelsea and it is about getting game time and can they do it? Yes, it is going to be risky, whether you play them or not, but I think it is a great opportunity for young kids at Chelsea to see a light.”
And thus far this season, Mount has seemed a beacon of light.
Published: September 26, 2019 02:45 PM