THERE was an unfamiliar face among the Dons starting line-up on Tuesday night, but Mason Spence’s performance against Northampton could mean fans begin to see more of the teenager.
The 17-year-old was handed his debut replacing Jon Otsemobor at right-back and looked every part of a first-team regular as he defended stoutly and even joined in with attacking duties as Dons controlled the game, despite losing 1-0.
“It was absolutely brilliant, it was just a shame we couldn’t cap it off with a win,” Spence said after the match. “For any boy my age it was just an absolute privilege. And to come in in a derby game as well. The fans and the atmosphere was incredible.
“For someone like me, it’s exactly what you look forward to, and work hard for for so many years. To come out and to have your family there watching you is just the best feeling. I can’t describe it!”
“It was a bit of a shock – I had been given hints on Saturday after the Carlisle game. I was watching and they mentioned it, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. And then on Monday, the gaffer gave me the nod and told me to come over and train with the first team.
“When I found out I was starting, well, my nights sleep was just ridiculous! Thoughts were running through my head, picturing how it’d be, but it was the best news. But today (Tuesday) took so long to get to the game!”
Spence is another in the long line of exciting young players to come out of the Dons academy, headed by Mike Dove. Sam and George Baldock, Adam Chicksen, Daniel Powell and Charlie Collins are just a few of the players to have gained first team experience in recent years and Spence hopes that he can spend a few more games in and around the first team in the coming season.
“There are so many players who have come through the ranks now. The likes of Adam Chicksen and Daniel Powell, and some of the players out on loan – there’s an endless number of players coming through and they’re comfortable when they do because the philosophy runs from the academy right through to the first team
“You have to keep your feet on the ground, but clubs naming seven substitutes is such a great opportunity for the youth team players. Even if we don’t get on the pitch, we are learning and being around that environment, preparing us for when we do get out on the pitch. That is a God send for us.”
Coming up against a strong Northampton team, Spence held his own well in defence and put several dangerous crosses into the box at the other end. The latest in the line of attacking full-backs along with Adam Chicksen, Spence says he was concentrating more on his defensive duties at Sixfields, and that he still has a lot more to offer.
“That’s the way I like to play,” he said. “Throughout the academy, they’ve always encouraged me to get forward. I go like to get forward. In my first game, I wanted to make sure my defensive duties were taken care of, but once I settled in, I wanted to get forward as much as possible and create opportunities.
“Hopefully next time I can actually get some assists or help out in some other ways.”