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One To Watch - Derby County's Mason Bennett

England Under-19 and Derby County striker making big noises in his progression.

I am going to start a series of articles about the perhaps lesser documented young talent in the Championship in the next coming weeks.

I believe the Championship is all about appreciating young talent and giving young players a chance at first team competitive football. We’ve all seen the success stories in players that have done their apprenticeship in the lower leagues to then go on to master the Premier League.

My first week is going to be dedicated to Mason Bennett, who has just scored the goal that has put England under 19s at the top of their group in the UEFA Under 19s Championship Qualifiers.

The background behind Mason Bennett is remarkable, such as his physical and technical ability he made his reserve team debut aged just 14 years old against Sheffield Wednesday on 26th October 2010.

He was named as a substitute for the first team within a month after his 15th birthday. However, he remained an unused substitution. If he had been used then he would have been officially crowned the youngest player to make a first team match in English football.

One of the infamous Mason Bennett stories is that he was considered for a first team game away at Reading but the management decided against it since they wouldn’t get back until early in the morning and he had School the next day.

He didn’t have to wait long for his chance, the following game was away at Middlesbrough on 22nd October 2011 and as it was a 3:00pm kick off he was selected for the squad.

A couple of hours before kick-off when the team-sheet went up he was stunned to find his name in the first 11 and being thrown in at the deep-end didn’t seem to affect him at all. The young striker went out and produced a very competent and lively performance and was very unfortunate not to score in the game with a chance whistling over the bar.

He scored his first competitive goal against Tranmere Rovers in the FA Cup on 5th January 2013 making him Derby County’s youngest ever goal scorer. 8 Months later he went on to score his first competitive league goal against Millwall on 14th September 2013, just shy of two years from his competitive debut.

He has played for various levels of the England youth set-up, currently a key member of the under 19 squad despite still being 17, shows the national youth system think highly of him. Touted as having a perfect attitude he has been made an example of for the England youth side being one of the main advertisements for opening of St. George’s Park, the official England training ground.

The powerful striker has 8 goals in 20 international appearances at youth level, which is an impressive return.

We are two years on from his competitive debut and he has 21 appearances under his belt, 18 of them being from the bench. Now a permanent fixture on the bench for Derby and earlier in the year tied up his first league goal showing a very good turn of pace and awareness to get the chance on goal, he is looking better with each viewing.

Steve McClaren’s first decision as Derby County manager was bringing on Mason Bennett for Conor Sammon when Derby were 4-1 down at half time, he set up one of the goals and produced a very high quality performance as Derby turned the game on its head which ended a 4-4 draw. He received heavy praise from coaching, management and fans after the game, some even tipping him for MOTM.

He has outstanding strengths to his game, the first memory I have of Mason is when he played against Portsmouth at Pride Park and his first duty in the match was a 50/50 battle with Tel Ben Haim.

Despite being 16-year- old going head to head with a Champions League finalist, he showed no fear and just knocked him straight to the floor and broke free down the right hand side of the pitch. When he is on the pitch, he can be a wrecking ball. He is strong, quick, explosive and powerful.

He is obviously still a very young player at 17 and shows moments of inexperience but he is exceedingly promising. The main asset he has is the awareness around attacking positions, he will pull away from defenders and read their body language instinctively to the point where he will jump on every little mistake. He has weaknesses to his game but these seem more typical to players his age, for instance composure on the ball and decision making which will come with experience.

He could do with fine tuning his technical ability a little bit. 100 mph is the only speed he knows, sometimes I get the feeling if he slowed down a little bit he would improve his technique no end, but would also take his explosive nature away from him.

He is another player that has been linked with the country’s top clubs in Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool for mega money and another young prospect that will inevitably become too good for championship football. A player I hope will go to the very top and gets more first team chances. I think with Steve McClaren at the helm and taking a shine to young Mason, it looks very possible.

Next edition of ‘one to watch’ will be on Leeds United’s very talented young midfielder Alex Mowatt who has recently broke into the first team and put in some strong performances.

image: © eamoncurry

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