Mason Mount says the days of feeling like the new kid on the block probably disappeared the day he made his senior debut for Chelsea. But he admitted a nomination for the Ballon d’Or has stripped away any last excuses for him not to be the main man whatever the level.
The 22-year-old is still pinching himself at being named in the 30-man long list for the most coveted personal accolade in football.
Yet far from feeling out of place even among the likes of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe or even his captain tonight Harry Kane, Mount exudes an inner confidence that he deserves to be rubbing shoulders.
And a succession of shrewd judges from Frank Lampard through Gareth Southgate and Thomas Tuchel have long since identified a quality in Mount well ahead of his tender years.
“As soon as I made my debut for Chelsea and later on for England, in my own head it was ‘I’m not a young kid no more’,” he said ahead of Tuesday’s Wembley clash against Hungary.
“Some people would say he’s a young player or just made his debut, but in my head it was ‘Ok you’ve made your debut now, you can’t look at yourself as a young player.’
“Young players need to show even though you are young that you can perform and be at that top level.
“The nomination is such a special thing. As a kid growing up, you look at the Ballon d’Or and how that is the top of the top from a personal view.
“To be nominated in the the top 30 in the world at the moment is a dream come true and special to be among names that I’ve looked up to as a kid. But it shows you can never stop working hard.”
Mount exhibits an intelligence and maturity that surely make him a candidate for future England captain – and it will please Southgate particularly to hear how Mount intends to follow up the best 12 months of his career.
“How do you follow that? You want to win more and more, that’s the start of it,” he said.
“Once you get that feeling of winning something, being a winner and doing it at the highest level, then you have gained that extra confidence that you know you can do it
“You may have done it in academies and stuff, but when you do it at the highest level, it has that different feeling. I think that’s where it starts. “You set a new goal, you set new targets for the new season – that’s something I’ve always done. And you get mentally wiser.”
Mount is not afraid to stand up and have his say in England’s dressing room. But he is not alone either.
“You know the level we have in this group if you drop your standard even a little bit it’s not going to be accepted,” said Mount.
“We’ve shown in the Euros what we are capable of and now that we have had that experience under our belts, we can keep trying to achieve something massive for the country.
“That has always been the goal. To be the best in the world, to win major tournaments.”
Mount also admitted it was a case of ‘once bitten twice jabbed’ for him after Covid cost him a crucial England match at the Euros.
He becomes the second England player to state he has been double vaccinated with the coronavirus vaccine following striker Tammy Abraham.
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And Mount insisted it was an easy decision to make after his post-match chat with Scotland international and Chelsea team-mate Billy Gilmour cost him a place in England’s Euros group stage match against the Czech Republic.
Both Mount and Ben Chilwell were forced into a 10-day isolation, training away from the main squad, after Gilmour tested positive for Covid at the Euros following Scotland’s 0-0 draw with England.
“Going through that experience, missing the game, a top, top game kind of did have an effect on my decision,” said Mount, ahead of tonight’s qualifier against Hungary.
Several England players have dodged direct questions about their vaccination status but despite Mount’s free admission he believes it remains a personal choice.
“I think for players it’s down to their decision how they feel about it,” he said.
“I don’t think you can force anyone to get it but, for me, going through that experience it did make me want to get it and get it quite quickly.”