18th – Mason Bennett
Behind window number 18 we have Rams U-21 power house Mason Bennett.
Amazingly Mason is still only 19 and isn’t 20 until next July, yet to his credit and now perhaps to his disadvantage, he has been around the first team for the best part of five years.
I think his story and current position at DCFC is really interesting and well worth reviewing from two points of view.
You will all know that Mason is the youngest first team player in Rams history being given a shock debut by Nigel Clough at Middlesbrough in October 2011. Shortly afterwards he broke into the England U-16 and U-17 set ups and was allegedly being heavily scouted by a string of the biggest clubs in England.
However whilst remaining involved with the first team since then, he has never quite gone to that next level of being a genuine first team squad member. He’s also had a couple of loans that were ‘ok’ without being spectacular.
This season he has hardly been around the first team picture at all. I remember going to the youth cup games at Pride Park a few years ago (there’s actually one tonight v West Ham) when it was all about Hughes and Bennett for the Rams. If you consider the status of Hughes now, it’s quite understandable to look at Mase and think he has gone backwards or perhaps just missed the boat whilst the club has moved on.
There is however another point of view.
How many of our current U-16 team can you name? Mason’s early exposure and rise into the public eye was unique by any standard. His physicality (if you ever see him up close he was and is an absolute unit) disguised the fact that he was actually a child for the first year or so of his first team experience. It’s all very well looking at the physical aspect but we will never know how he handled that jump mentally.
I’ve seen Mason play on numerous occasions for the 18’s and 21’s and he is always a threat with his direct, combative style and pure physical strength. He is often one of our better players and is always heavily involved in most games. If you took away the history, you would be looking at a player at 19 ½ years old, playing well regularly for the 21’s and thinking he’s exactly where he should be and he has a great chance. However because of the extraordinary start to his career, there is that seed of doubt.
Personally I love watching Mason smash a full back and would love to see him make it at Derby and doing it for the first team regularly. So I’m really hoping we can hook him up with a good loan in January and he can take the opportunity because making the breakthrough at Derby isn’t going to get any easier any time soon.