RYAN Mason knows a thing or two about pressure from his time at Tottenham Hotspur.
Not only did the midfielder make his Premier League debut amid the combustible atmosphere of the North London derby against Arsenal, but he also played a big part in some crunch clashes on the domestic front and in Europe.
Last season cranked that tension up another notch due to Mauricio Pochettino’s side being involved in a two-way tussle with Leicester City at the top of the Premier League. On the May night that Spurs’ dream of a first title success in 55 years finally died against Chelsea, Mason was one of nine players in the visiting team to be cautioned – a Premier League record – as tempers boiled over and scores were settled all over the pitch.
After that infamous ‘Battle of Stamford Bridge’, the 25-year-old could have been forgiven for thinking he had seen it all.
But then came the deadline-day £13m move to Hull City and a relegation fight that has been an eye-opener for someone used to scrapping it out at the other end of the table.
“The pressure here is different,” said Mason when asked by The Yorkshire Post about the contrasts between life at the top and bottom of the Premier League.
“I was at a club challenging for the title last year so know what it is like to feel pressure. But this is different. We need to start winning, particularly at home, and we all know that.
“Having said that, pressure is pressure. Whether you have to win a game to stay in a title race or to stay up, the pressure is there.”
This afternoon will see Hull take on the side who inflicted what Mason admits was an “embarrassing” defeat earlier in the season.
Bournemouth romped to a 6-1 triumph in Mike Phelan’s first game as permanent head coach that was every bit as one-sided as the scoreline suggests.
Hull, despite equalising just after the half-hour through Mason’s first league goal in amber and black, folded so horribly on the south coast that the relegation alarm bells were ringing all the way home.
No one on duty for Hull that day has forgotten the utter dejection of a defeat that saw the East Riding club slip to 16th in the table.
“It was the heaviest defeat of my career,” said Mason. “A dreadful day for everyone involved. Embarrassing, really. It is hard to put my finger on what went wrong. We were 1-1 and in the game, probably on top at the time.
“At this level, it is minor details that change games. We conceded four goals from set-pieces that day. That can’t happen, at this level you have to be organised and you just can’t concede from set-pieces. You don’t give yourself a chance if you do that.
“When we went 3-1 down, I think a lot of us were dislodged and got punished. Hopefully, that will never happen again.”
The return fixture, of course, offers a chance for redemption. It is also the first of nine remaining home games that will surely decide Hull’s fate this term.
Liverpool are the next league visitors to the KCOM early next month but, after that, the Tigers face more or less every other side battling against the drop.
Swansea City, Sunderland, Burnley, Middlesbrough, Watford and West Ham United are all yet to visit the East Riding, something that Mason believes can be a decisive weapon in Hull’s armoury in the fight against the drop.
“We do have a lot of the teams around us to play at home,” added the midfielder. “A few of us have spoken about that this week. Home form is what, hopefully, is going to keep us in this league.
“We have to turn draws at home into wins. If we do that, confidence will flow and then we can also start picking up results away from home.”
Mason is the first to admit that his form since moving north in a deal that shattered Hull’s previous record transfer fee has not been as good as he had hoped.
But, as the Tigers prepare for the visit of Bournemouth, he does believe a move back into his preferred central midfield position can be the catalyst for a strong second half of the season.
“I have always said I am a centre midfielder,” he added. “Under the previous gaffer, we had injuries and I had to take it as a compliment that I could play left wing.
“But, from my point of view, the best of my abilities are in centre midfield. This gaffer wants to play a bit more of a high pressing game and in an attacking way. That should help people see the best of me.
“I don’t feel anyone has seen the best of me yet, definitely not. It takes time to adapt to a new club and the way we played for the first four or five months of the season was totally different to what I was used to.
“Playing out of position and us being on a bad run meant everyone turned around and looked at me because of the value put on my head. That is how football goes.
“But I have always been confident if played in my correct position and, given a run of games, I will do well, I am sure you will see that.
“I don’t feel burdened by the price tag. Others maybe listen to what is said more than I do. I want to perform to the best of my ability because I love football, not because I cost a lot of money.
“If I don’t have a good game, it ruins my week. That is pretty normal.
“But I don’t let my head drop. The business we are in, you can’t allow that.
“You have bad results and performances, but if you work hard in training and in the gym then your fortunes will change.
“I always believe that what you get on the pitch is what you put into life.”
Mason also believes the arrival of new head coach Marco Silva can help kick-start his own season. “Training has been intense under the new gaffer,” he added. “He is very hands on and stops training to explain things, and how he wants us to play, in and out of possession.
“He arrived with a good reputation and is hungry. You can see he is young and passionate and excited. He is relishing the opportunity and really wants to get his philosophy across to us. He will raise standards. Under this manager you can’t cut corners. That can only be good for us as a team.”