What a year it’s been for 21 year old Joe Mason. Few players of his age and relative inexperience in the game made quite as big an impact in the Championship as the humble striker from Plymouth.
Now in his second season with Cardiff City, Joe continues to make strides as part of Malky Mackay’s promotion chasing squad. In this special CF11 interview he reflects on his break-through year.
CF11: You’ve had quite a 2012 Joe! When you write your memoirs one day, will this be referenced as a pivotal year?
JOE: (Laughs) It has been a good year and it has gone fast which has got to be a good thing I suppose. I am enjoying myself and on the pitch things are going well as well as we could have hoped for.
CF11: Can you single out any particular highlights from the past twelve months?
JOE: Playing and scoring at Wembley is probably the easy one to pick out; I would have to say that really. Going a bit further back into late 2011 though was my first goal for Cardiff against Barnsley. That gave me a load of confidence going into 2012 because it took a while to come. Being involved regularly has also helped me a lot over the past twelve months.
CF11: Has the speed of your progression surprised you?
JOE: Last season that was definitely the case; I set a standard last year and it will be tough to follow that again this time around. We have a big squad now and even though I may be playing a little less, I understand that this is a squad game. To be promoted, we have to have a squad with depth and quality which I think we have. Things are going well - we are top of the league and five points clear of second. Personally, I think I have more self belief this year; I know what I can do and I need to go out there and do it now when called upon.
CF11: How much do you think you’ve benefitted from the influx of experience over the summer?
JOE: We have more players this season and more options. It is good for me as I am learning from more players and different types of players with different styles. Last year I played a lot when I probably didn’t expect to, whereas this year I am working very hard to get into the team which is undoubtedly improving me. Heidar Helguson, for example, has been a fantastic influence. Everything he says is always so positive. He has a lot of experience and has been promoted before. He has got lessons to share with other people and listening to him has helped me massively.
CF11: After your breakthrough 2011/12 season, what advice were you given by the Gaffer and coaches going into the summer months?
JOE: First and foremost, to have a good rest, obviously. We played a lot of games last year which took its toll on the body, but the key message was to keep going because a big season was fast approaching. They told me to bring what we had done last season into this season and basically said that we were going to be going for it this year and that they wanted me to be involved. That was nice to hear.
CF11: As a young player, the need to bulk up as you develop is essential. Have you put work in on this front in particular?
JOE: I have, yeah. The Manager and Sport Scientists Nilton Terroso and Callum Walsh spoke to me about bulking up for this season. I have put on a few kilograms to be fair, but I’ve a few more to go. It is important this year because it is very physical and as the games come thick and fast for me it will be very important to have those extra kilograms of muscle. A lot of the lads do yoga, although I’ve been sitting out of that to concentrate on my weights work which I do twice or three times a week instead. The Sport Science department here is first class and we have specialists involved to take care of our every need. We have a masseuse for example who helps us a lot in the aftermath of games, while we have Darren Campbell helping us out and who I practice my sprint training with for example. Everything we need is here for us - yoga, boxing classes, you name it .
CF11: As a young player in this Cardiff City squad, how important is it to be patient and take on board the advice you’re given to improve your game?
JOE: We know that it’s very important. Obviously with the options we have upfront for example, there are some very good players who have done a lot in the game and have been promoted before. I haven’t expected to play in front of these players, but when I come on I am trying to do as well as I can. I’ve got four goals so far, so I am on course to get another good season tally. With half the season to go I am confident I can get there.
CF11: Have you any personal targets for 2013?
JOE: To try and be involved in the team as much as possible and obviously promotion is the main target. We don’t want to shout about it though; we want to go about our business quietly and hopefully we will get there.