Chelsea are to extend an open invitation to Ryan Mason to attend one of their matches after the midfielder was forced to retire because of the fractured skull he suffered against them.
Mason required surgery after an accidental clash of heads with Gary Cahill while playing for Hull 13 months ago, but having returned to training in May he this week announced his retirement off the back of medical advice.
The 26-year-old’s parents are season ticket holders at Stamford Bridge and were present that night in January 2017 when he was given oxygen while being taken off on a stretcher, after which they joined him in the ambulance as he was taken to London’s St Mary’s Hospital.
Hull return to Chelsea on Friday in the fifth round of the FA Cup, although the one-time England international is not expected to be present.
Cahill this week spoke of his ‘devastation’ at Mason’s retirement, but Chelsea manager Antonio Conte will regardless consider the defender for selection.
“I think it’s okay,” Conte said. “When you play and your behaviour is always with great honesty: we are talking about a top player, no? For his commitment, his behaviour during, before and after the game.
“This type of situation can happen. I was a player and I understand it. I broke my leg.
“My team-mate broke my leg when I was 16, and risked my whole career, but it was an unlucky situation. I repeat: Gary is a fantastic guy, a fantastic person. He must be okay because it’s not his fault.
“I didn’t speak with him. If I have to go to speak with him, it means there is a problem. I don’t see a problem. Football is this. Sometimes it can happen, this type of situation. The most important thing is there is not the will to do this.
“In the same injury, if you remember, Cahill did a lot for his integrity. We are very sad for this news. But football is this. You have to try and accept also these bad situations. They can happen.”
Regarding Mason, Conte said: “We are very sad for this bad news. He showed great strength to recover, to try to play again. It’s a pity because to stop your career at such a young age, it’s a pity. We are very sad. The players and the club wish him and his family the best for the present, the best for the future.”
The Italian remains without the injured David Luiz, Ross Barkley and Tiemoue Bakayoko, and plans to rotate his team with matches against Barcelona, Manchester United and Manchester City to follow.
“To play on Friday is good for us,” he said. “Three days to try and prepare the game against Barcelona.
“At the same time, between these games, we have two strong games in the league: Manchester United and Manchester City, both away. If we were lucky to play on Friday, we were very unlucky to have this schedule between the two Barcelona games.
“I hope no replay, no. We had one against Norwich, but I hope to try and win this game and go through without a replay.”
Like our dedicated Chelsea Facebook page for the latest news and features to your timeline