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Mason Mount the future of Chelsea & England? Let's not kill his career before it's started...

COMMENT: So. Are you going to watch him tonight? Live at the Madejski. The future of Chelsea. Of England. Mason Mount on Friday night prime time...

...erm, do you think we can just dial back the hype a touch? Yes, Mount has a chance - a big chance - of making it in the game. Yes, he comes off an outstanding season at Vitesse Arnhem. But the talk of England and World Cups? It's just setting the lad up for a massive fall.

When Mount, in a Derby County shirt, takes the pitch tonight at Reading, it will mark his senior debut on English soil. He's never played first team football in England. Let alone experienced the unique demands of the Championship. That he has even established himself as a first-choice for Frank Lampard is achievement in itself. Yet, he goes into tonight with the expectation that he'll run the game from the off.

On a season-long loan from Chelsea and after being named Vitesse's Player of the Year, the midfielder will kickoff the Championship in front of a Friday night audience with hype in overdrive.

But if you're going to tune in, just cut the kid some slack. It might not happen for him straight away. It didn't in Holland - which makes what he's done under Lampard in preseason all the more impressive.

At Vitesse, the wily, blunt Henk Fraser held Mount back for almost two months. He liked the midfielder - immediately. Indeed, all the staff at Vitesse were impressed. As this column has stated in the past, we've been told the coaches at Vitesse, even the veterans, are staggered by the technical quality of the English players Chelsea are sending them. Mount was just the latest after the likes of Lewis Baker and Dominic Solanke.

Fraser shared that opinion, but it took over two months before he was confident Mount could handle a full 90 at Eredivisie level.

"Mount can play great football. But it is very important to bring through such a boy at the right time," recalls Fraser. "That is very difficult. I am expected to be patient with young boys, but very often they do not have that patience themselves and their environment does not.

"But I did not have doubts about his qualities. He is a pearl, a crazy player."

For Fraser, the talent was there. The potential. But he wanted to test the English teen. After the cushy environment offered up at Chelsea, could Mount find his way in a different environment?

After seeing the midfielder score his first goal for Vitesse in October, Fraser delivered his verdict.

"What I like most about Mount is that he has been angry with me for weeks, but at the same time is training madly," laughed Fraser at the time. "So he forces it on the field. For some time, he would not even look at me. Not even if I said good morning. It is nice to see that such a boy is so very eager."

More than any wonder goal. Or flash of natural brilliance. For anyone hoping Mount is the real thing, it's that willingness to rise to Fraser's challenge which should give his supporters confidence going into his first English season.

Upon collecting his Player of the Year gong, Mount admitted he knew Fraser was testing him.

"The trainer told me that I did not get any guarantees," he recalled. "I had to fight to be in the team. I had to convince the trainer of my qualities. No preferential treatment could be expected in any way. As a boy, I had to break into men's football.

"That was the signal for me to sign for a year. And I have never regretted it."

Indeed, as his biggest fan - and harshest critic - also admits, with things not going to plan, there could well have been big regrets at the turn of the year.

Dad Tony says: "Mason could've returned to England last winter to be loaned again. Just at that moment Mason proved from which wood he was cut.

"He did not want to return himself. Mason wanted to prove that he was good enough for Vitesse."

And it's that mentality which will again be tested this season.

As Lampard says, "At this club he's going to get the pressure of 30,000 people at home games and travelling round in a difficult Championship, so that's great grounding and work for him.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for him to really show the world, and England, what he can do in the Championship."

England? The world? Let's not get ahead of ourselves, Frank. As Fraser said last season, the talent is there, as is the mentality. But from the outside, there is also a need for patience.

So rather than conquering the world. How about we start tonight with a decent debut and three points at the Madejski? Just let the lad get on with it.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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