As he was making his way in the game, Ryan Mason probably thought he would still be playing for Tottenham in the Premier League when he was 29.
The Enfield-born midfielder came through the ranks at Spurs and made 70 appearances before his 25th birthday, but had to retire less than two years later after a sickening head injury.
Now instead of putting on his boots and donning the famous white shirt for Wednesday’s clash with Southampton, Mason finds himself taking charge of his boyhood club.
Mason, who does not celebrate his 30th birthday until June, has been placed in temporary charge of Spurs until the end of the season following Monday’s sacking of Jose Mourinho as he steps up from his role of head of player development.
What is more, he finds himself leading Spurs, a club he joined aged eight, out in a cup final as he will be at the helm for Sunday’s Carabao Cup showpiece against Manchester City.
It is a journey that he probably never thought was possible when he was cruelly forced to retire aged only 26.
Mason would have had big dreams about a career-long stay at Spurs, who he joined as a boy.
Having made his debut in 2009 as an 18-year-old, his breakthrough came in 2015-16 in Mauricio Pochettino’s first season in charge, when he played 37 times in all competitions and earned an England cap as he came on as a substitute in a friendly against Italy.
Also, in a foreshadowing of what is to come for Mason this weekend, one of those appearances was starting the League Cup final against Chelsea, a game Spurs lost 2-0 to Mourinho’s side.
But as Pochettino began to work his magic at White Hart Lane and Spurs hurtled towards a Premier League title challenge, opportunities became harder to come by for Mason and he was sold to Hull in the summer of 2016.
It is at Hull where his life would change forever as just six months into his time at the Tigers he suffered a fractured skull in an FA Cup game with Chelsea after a clash of heads with Gary Cahill.
The injury was serious enough to require surgery and the side effects were so severe that even after a year-long recovery, doctors told him that it was not safe to resume playing and he announced his retirement.
Spurs soon took him back under their wing as they gave him a home while he completed his coaching badges in April 2018 and just over a year later he got a prominent role in the club’s academy, being hired as the head of player development.
It was a fast rise for a young coach, but nothing in comparison to the one he now has to make, jumping up to an interim head coach position, though he will be assisted by the experienced Chris Powell.
What he lacks in experience, he can make up in other areas. Mason shared a dressing room as a team-mate of 10 current players at Spurs, so he should be able to unite a squad that has been fractured over the last couple of years.
He is particularly close to Harry Kane and was one of a select few from the footballing world that was invited to his wedding in 2019.
His appointment until the end of the season hints at Spurs being unable to get their main target until the summer, but that presents Mason with the chance to stake his claim for an unlikely rise to the very top.