Derby County star Mason Bennett’s former PE teacher says it will be “fantastic” if his former student gets his chance to play at Wembley on Monday.
Andy Gilbert, now vice principal at Mason’s old school, Shirebrook Academy, in Shirebrook, says that the 22-year-old thoroughly deserves his chance to play on English football’s biggest stage in Derby’s play-off final against Aston Villa.
Mr Gilbert first taught Mason when he was a Year Seven student and describes him as a special talent who was the best school footballer that he has ever seen.
Mason, who comes from nearby Langwith and also represented Shirebrook Rangers, went onto make his debut for Derby aged just 15, while he was still a student at the school and had yet to sit his GCSEs.
He left Shirebrook Academy the following year and Mr Gilbert has followed his progress ever since.
He said: “I really hope that he gets his chance to pay at Wembley because it will be a fantastic experience for him. He has had some bad luck with injuries and has been out on loan a few times, but he has done extremely well this season and deserves his chance.
“A lot of our students are Derby fans and it’s great hearing them discussing how he used to go to our school. He was always a good student. He was quiet and worked hard and didn’t really talk about his football and what he was doing at Derby County.
“The first time I took notice of Mason was when he was in Year 9 and he literally took the ball from one end of the field to the other by making a long pass from defence, sprinting through everyone, getting onto the end of his own pass, controlling it and scoring.
“He demonstrated his speed, his power and his composure all in one move and I thought ‘my God, that’s special’.”
Mason is the second Shirebrook-born footballer to play at Wembley, following in the footsteps of England World Cup winner Ray Wilson, who graced the old Wembley Stadium on more than one occasion, including the famous 1966 final.
Mr Gilbert said: “Mason was exceptional at whatever sport we did in PE, but there was nothing any of us needed to teach him when it came to football.
“I’d love to say I taught him how to score goals like the one he scored against Wigan but sadly it’s not the case, but if he did ask me for any advice on the day, it’s just to enjoy himself and keep on doing whatever it is that has got him into the team in the first place.
“It will be an exciting experience but it’s not the time to do something different. Go on, play your normal game and don’t let the occasion go to your head.”
Shirebrook Academy is based in Common Lane, Shirebrook. It has 840 students and is a member of the Aston Community Education Trust (ACET), benefitting from the efficiencies to be gained from high quality centralised services and the challenge and support of ACET’s School Improvement Team.
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