From Real Madrid’s academy to the rough and tumble of League Two with Doncaster Rovers, Niall Mason can lay claim to a unique upbringing in football.
But having now fully recovered from a nasty knee injury, sustained in only his second ever EFL appearance, the well travelled 19-year-old is just loving life at Doncaster.
It might be a far cry from Madrid, but the on-loan Aston Villa teenager, who is likely to continue at right back against Colchester United tomorrow, says he is benefitting by playing “proper football” in League Two.
“It’s a lot better than what people think and give it credit for,” said Mason.
“A lot of teams like to play and there’s some really good players in this league.
“I’ve been involved in one Premier League game and a few in pre-season with Aston Villa, so this is more of a progression thing for me coming to play League Two football rather than with the Under-23s.
“I’m benefitting massively from it because it’s proper football.
“It’s helped me come on but I’d like to get a run of games because I’ve only played four or five games because of my injury.
“I’d love to stay [for the rest of the season] if I continue to play games but that’s down to the manager and the club and how they feel.
“But I’ve learned that things change very quickly in football, like with my injury I was playing one minute and then out for nearly two months. I’ll just have to see how things go.”
Mason is modest when it comes to his footballing CV, which also lists Blackburn Rovers and Southampton among his former clubs, but the versatile youngster says his time in Spain did aid his technical development.
“It was really good,” said Mason, looking back at his time at Real Madrid.
“It was a long time ago, I was very young [seven].
“It’s a bit different to now - I was only with the academy - but it was a really good experience for me.
“It was a different culture and a different type of football so I worked quite a lot on my technical side out there. That’s probably the main thing I’ve taken from there.”
Looking forward, Mason is just focused on making the most of his time at Rovers and getting as many games under his belt as possible.
And he says the Doncaster Rovers dressing room is a great one in which to continue his development.
He smiled: “It’s been nice to come back into the team now they’re winning!”
There’s a brilliant mix of youth and experience here. James Coppinger is 35 but he plays like he’s 26!
“Having the experienced players around us makes us younger ones feel a lot more comfortable.”