There’s a palpable sense of excitement around Stamford Bridge at the moment. Unusual, perhaps, for a club that has just lost one of the most respected managers in the world and is in the middle of serving a transfer ban.
In fact, those two elements have contributed to the Blues’ happy-clappy pre-season. Maurizio Sarri’s exit provided the opportunity for Chelsea legend Frank Lampard’s entrance, and the transfer ban has put a temporary halt to the team’s business as a Europe-wide youth footballer rental outlet.
Young players such as Tammy Abraham and Reece James, who might have expected to spend another year away from west London – the only link to their parent club being membership of an unwieldy WhatsApp group – have been drafted into the first-team squad for the coming year. Abraham has the No.9 shirt. One name, though, stands apart: Mason Mount.
The 20-year-old midfielder spent last season on loan at Lampard’s Derby County, but comparisons in playing style to the Blues’ boss long pre-date that.
This should come as no surprise. When FourFourTwo spoke to Mount for the 51 best players in the EFL feature earlier this year, he explained that, having joined Chelsea as an eight-year-old in the late-2000s, Lampard was a “massive” idol. “He was the one that I would always watch and try to take things from his game,” Mount said. Playing in a No.10 role, his style – as well as his goal and assist returns – is certainly Lampard-esque.
Mount’s early start in the Chelsea youth system is part of what endears him to fans so much; he even captained them to FA Youth Cup glory. A loan spell in the Eredivisie with Vitesse produced 13 goals, 10 assists and the club's player-of-the-season award, cementing his reputation as an up-and-coming attacking midfielder.
Then, under Lampard and assistant Jody Morris (who had been his coach for youth victories), Mount was able to learn directly from the man he had looked up to growing up.
“He's said about my timing into the box, getting onto crosses and getting into the right positions,” Mount explained. “Stuff off the ball as well. Pressing, working hard and doing the other side of the game – not just focusing on getting forward, trying to score goals or creating assists. It's been about getting back and pressing and helping the team out by starting the press and trying to win the ball back. I've learned a lot off him so far.”
Now the two are reunited at Chelsea, and Mount’s ambitions are clearly to get serious minutes. While 25-year-old Ross Barkley is likely to keep Mount out of the starting line-up at first, the younger player’s highlights from the previous year reveal a little about his character. “The [cup] games against the top Premier League teams,” he remembered. “We went to [Manchester] United and beat them, went to Southampton and beat them, and obviously the Chelsea game as well, where we went there and played so well.”
Ah yes, the Chelsea game. While the Blues scraped through 3-2 against Derby in last November’s EFL Cup clash at Stamford Bridge, Lampard’s side impressed. Mount saw his chance to make a name for himself. “Going into the game I obviously wanted to make an impression and that was my chance to show what I can do,” said the youngster. He got an assist.
“It was pretty surreal going into that stadium not being at Chelsea. But my focus was totally on winning the game. I didn't worry about anything else but playing for Derby and trying to win the game; trying to play the best that I can.
“It did feel a bit weird. But we played very very well. We were unlucky not to come away with the win, but on another night maybe we could have got that. But I really enjoyed it. It's something that I'll remember for a long time.”
By the end of last season, Mount had scored 11 in all competitions – including a hat-trick against Bolton and vital goal in the play-off victory against Leeds, where he lost his footing and still managed to scoop the ball over goalkeeper Kiko Casilla.
20-year-old Derby midfielder Mason Mount got a hat-trick this weekend, including this lovely header.
I interviewed him for the 51 best EFL players feature in the latest @FourFourTwo – get your copy here: https://t.co/o3YOcrGnWlpic.twitter.com/A1TKh1FCqZ— Conor Pope (@Conorpope) April 15, 2019
A similar return is not expected this year, but Lampard has confessed that Mount’s summer form – he has played all but one pre-season friendly – has put him firmly in the first-team mix.
What the coming months promise for Chelsea fans instead is the chance to finally see a glimpse of the homegrown player tipped as Lampard's heir – and possibly, vindication of the club’s much-maligned loanee system. Because, having worked hard during his successful stints in the Netherlands and Championship, the level-headed Mount doesn’t even seem to feel the pressure. And that’s why there’s excitement at the Bridge.
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