Mason is King in Kong!
By Wendy Gee -
CHRIS Mason is on his way back to Eastleigh for pre-season training after scoring one of the goals of the tournament at the Hong Kong FC International Soccer Sevens.
The skilful midfielder, dual-signed at Southern Premier club Bashley last season, picked the ball up in his own half, ran on and let fly with a sizzling 35-yard strike to pull the Spitfires level in the final of the Plate competition.
That proved a turning point as Eastleigh went on to seal a 2-1 victory over the Yau Yee Select and bring the silverware back to Hampshire.
With Eastleigh boss Ian Baird looking to supplement his first-team squad with some promising youngsters next season, 19-year-old Mason will get his chance to shine when the players report back for pre-season training.
"Chris only went to Bashley on an informal loan and we fully expect him to be back with us in pre-season and he could well be part of the squad for next year," said Eastleigh's director of football David Malone.
"Chris was with Saints until the age of 15. He's a good lad and the year he's had at Bashley has done him the world of good."
As the only non-league side in Hong Kong, Eastleigh did themselves proud against such highbrow opponents as group rivals Aston Villa and Sunderland.
Villa, who went on to win the main tournament, included pedigree youngsters Nathan Delfouneso, Marc Albrighton and Ciaran Clark - all of whom boast first team experience with Martin O'Neill's Premiership side.
Having lost their opening two group games 2-0 to Sunderland and Villa, Eastleigh won the first of their meetings with Yau Yee 2-1.
Both teams went into the consolation Plate competition with Eastleigh beating Advance Double Flower 1-0 in the quarter-finals and Hong Kong FC Captain's Select 1-0 in the semi-final before encountering Yau Yee again.
And after Mason's long-distance heroics, it was striker Alex Easton, fresh from his Blue Square South debut for Eastleigh - who bagged the winner, earning himself an interview on Hong Kong TV.
Eastleigh's victorious squad included AFC Totton's former Silverlake pair Brett Williams and Michael Green, who had been to the tournament as Spitfires the previouse year.
"All the lads did well in Hong Kong. Brett Williams scored two good goals and I had at least two clubs asking about him," said Malone.
Eastleigh boss Baird was part of the Southampton Lloyds TSB All Stars competing in the masters section of the tournament.
They responded to a 1-0 opening day reverse against Hong Kong Veterans by beating Kowloon Cricket Club by the same scoreline.
But a 3-0 group defeat by Gallic All Stars sent them into the Plate quarter-final, which they lost 1-0 to Nottingham Forest Mobsters.