Mason Makes The Cut - But What's His Role ?
Cardiff City have rebufed loan interest in young striker Joe Mason over the summer, and Malky mackay gave him a welcome boost in confidence by naming him in the 25-man squad where £1m forward Velikonja and experienced wideman Craig Conway both missed out.
The move suggests Mason has a role to play this season, and he has certainly demonstrated a great deal of professionalism and existing ability to go with his undeniable potential. However, the fact remains that he is likely to be behind Campbell, Cornelius, Maynard, Bellamy and deadline day signing Peter Odemwingie in the striking roster. Even further, the experience of Tommy Smith and the 'alternative option' offered by Rudy Gestede's physique and aerial ability suggest either could be preferred to Mason when we are looking to chase a goal.
I can't see Mason leading the line as a lone frontman in the Premiership. Instead, his ability to drop off and exploit space in between the opposition back four and midfield suggests he is better suited to a second striker role. But as demonstrated, Mackay has a number of options available and I struggle to see a natural role for Mason in the current set-up.
Perhaps Mason's best position is that described as 'in the hole' and he is probably more adept than any of the other strikers we have in that position. Unfortunately for Mason, Kim Bo Kyung could also cause serious problems as an advanced playmaker and his place in the midfield could easily be filled by the likes of Jordon Mutch.
Of course you need a deep and strong squad to survive in the premiership and we will undoubtedly be stretched at times by sheer number of fixtures alongside the inevitable injuries and fixtures. However, Mason needs gametime to develop and with Cardiff City sure to face a very difficult season there aren't likely to be many opportunities to 'give the lad a chance'.
We know he has plenty to offer, but City must take any opportunity for points and it will be very difficult for Mason to force his way past his team-mates in terms of competition for places. There is enourmous satisfaction in seeing a young player signed for a small fee develop and become a leading player. Mason could well do that, but it may also be a frustrating time for him and of the 25-strong squad it's the young Irishman along with John Brayford and the reserve keepers who look likely to be most starved of action.