Rising up through the academy ranks at Chelsea, Mason Mount would have been prepped for the nastier side of superstardom. The tirades of criticism that follow poor performances and the keyboard warriors on Twitter.
How to deal with being called the ‘teacher’s pet’ probably didn’t come up on the course.
Yet that was the ludicrous situation the 21-year-old midfielder found himself earlier this season when he had the audacity to play more minutes for England than Jack Grealish.
Mason Mount gets a hug from Callum Hudson-Odoi after setting up his goal against Rennes
The 21-year-old midfielder again showed his class as Chelsea made the last 16 in Europe
Even Cesc Fabregas expressed his admiration of Mount’s ‘fantastic’ assist for Hudson-Odoi
Mount replied to the Fabregas tweet to say the Spanish midfielder was his inspiration
Fans – especially Aston Villa fans – felt that Gareth Southgate was unfairly favouring the clean cut, reliable Mount over the more maverick and exciting Grealish, making their feelings known with a barrage of social media memes from the genuinely funny to the downright crude.
Despite the best efforts of Frank Lampard, Southgate and Grealish himself to draw a line under this weird state of affairs, the ‘teacher’s pet’ tag seems destined to follow Mount around for a while yet.
The extension of this, that Mount is somehow Lampard’s ‘son’, is even stranger.
It could well be a harmless joke, but wrapped up in it are accusations of favouritism, quite possibly because they’re both English, quite possibly because Mount was on loan at Derby under Lampard in 2018-19.
Quite possibly because in some aspects of his game, Mount is a similar midfielder to the one Lampard was.
Even this week, Lampard joked: ‘I don’t want to add fuel to the fire of him being my son, because I’ve been so positive about him.’
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has been accused of favouring Mount like ‘his own son’
Mount has also been accused of being a ‘teacher’s pet’ in Gareth Southgate’s England side
Mount is no longer keeping Jack Grealish out of the England team, however – both players started all three of England’s internationals this month
The favouritism allegation would carry some weight if Mount was performing badly at the moment. But the opposite is true – he is enjoying an outstanding season.
Just look at the sumptuous assist he provided for Callum Hudson-Odoi in Tuesday night’s Champions League win over Rennes.
Having won the ball back himself deep inside his own half, Mount turned, ran forward, looked up and had the vision to spot that Hudson-Odoi was clear on the right.
Cutting onto his right foot, Mount delivered an inch-perfect 40 yard pass that bounced perfectly for the forward to break through and slot home.
It was his fourth assist of the campaign, continuing the fine form of his breakthrough year at Chelsea last season when he played 53 games, scored eight goals and set up six more.
This season, he has created more chances than any other Chelsea player and completed more dribbles. Only N’Golo Kante has made more tackles, so his importance to the team goes well beyond the cross-field ball.
Mount’s stats for Chelsea and England so far this season are impressive, with 14 chances created in Premier League games and a high passing accuracy
Mount has created more chances and completed more dribbles than anyone else at Chelsea
Only holding midfielder N’Golo Kante has put in more tackles than Mount this season
Little wonder that Lampard tried once more to kill the negativity around the young midfielder post-match.
‘With Mason there’s been a lot of talk and any negative talk just needs to go away,’ he said.
‘I’m not going to undermine the quality he has and when we have two No 8s he’s got all the qualities – I think he can get more goals and assists. The pass for Callum Hudson-Odoi’s goal was top class.
‘I actually don’t speak to [Mount] too much. We have a good relationship, not as close as some think. He knows I’m here if he needs any guidance but it’s the social media world, in the modern-day world we all have opinions and want different things from players.
‘It should only be what I think, the players think and proper Chelsea fans think of him. The conversation just needs to move on, there’s nothing to make of it.’
Mount takes on Sean Longstaff of Newcastle during Chelsea’s 2-0 win there on Saturday
His good form has continued after scoring for England in their game with Iceland this month
Rather like Tammy Abraham finding good form in response to Timo Werner’s arrival, Mount has kicked up a gear in light of added competition from £72million Kai Havertz.
He is in the team on merit, not because of any imagined preference of the manager.
Those Chelsea fans demanding Havertz play more simply because he’s the £72m signing will find both get plenty of chances and they can both be accommodated together anyway, as in the recent win at Burnley.
It’s similar to the situation with Mount and Grealish in the England team.
Southgate hasn’t posted on his blue-tick Twitter account since 2015 but he is clearly informed about what’s trending on the platform.
‘I suppose on that you’re referring to Mason, whose only crime is not to be Jack at the moment,’ the England manager said before this month’s internationals.
‘I’m also aware I should talk about Mason because then it keeps the memes going of me talking about Mason. So we have got to fulfil all those requirements just to keep the Villa fans happy.’
There have been no shortage of Twitter memes on the subject of Gareth Southgate’s alleged favouritism of Mount over Jack Grealish in the England team
It was a light-hearted attempt to defuse the fabricated Mount-Grealish rivalry but much more effective was the fact Southgate proceeded to play both together in the same team at the same time in all three of England’s games this month.
Indeed, Grealish played 227 minutes to Mount’s 206 over the matches against the Republic of Ireland, Belgium and Iceland. And, guess what, they both played really well.
This isn’t Lampard vs Gerrard Part II, there’s room in the team for the both of them.
Not only that, but both Mount and Grealish spoke out while on England duty at their frustration at this supposed animosity.
‘I love Mason. It’s a bit annoying actually because he probably gets a bit of stick about it at times. I think he’s an absolutely terrific player. I don’t even feel like we’re fighting for the same spot to be honest,’ said Grealish.
Mount said: ‘I don’t see it as a rivalry. We are two different players and we do different things. We can play in different roles so the comparisons are not just.’
It would serve England best if both Mount and Grealish start their games at Euro 2020
That’s true and it would be to England’s enormous benefit approaching Euro 2020 that places could be found for both Mount and Grealish in the starting line-up given both are playing brilliantly.
Still, despite the many attempts from all parties to stop everything being a competition, to some Mason will never be Jack and he’ll always be the ‘teacher’s pet’.
Of course, the ‘teacher’s pet’ often tends to be the straight-A student and Mount is producing excellence.
His assist in France on Tuesday night drew praise on Twitter from Cesc Fabregas, who knows a perfect pass when he sees one.
Joe Cole also sung his praises in the BT Sport studio: ‘When you see people criticising Mason Mount, who are they? Because he’s been sublime from the start of the season.’
It’s nigh on impossible in this day and age for footballers to ignore the social media chatter about them. In Mount’s case, however, it really doesn’t seem to register.