Mason Bennett: Forward opens up on Derby County controversy and new start at Burton

Forward Mason Bennett says he has a point to prove at Burton Albion and that he has learned from the off-field controversy that ended his time at childhood club Derby County.

Bennett became Derby's youngest ever player at the age of 15 in 2011.

He left in 2020 after his involvement in a car crash, but avoided jail after pleading guilty to drink driving.

"I was gutted it ended that way, but I can't turn back time and change it," the 27-year-old told BBC Radio Derby.

"We have all done stupid things in the past and the only way you can move on is to learn from it and look forward."

Both Bennett and then Derby team-mate Tom Lawrence pleaded guilty to the same offence after their cars crashed on the A6 near Allestree in Derby following a team-building dinner in September 2019.

Richard Keogh, Rams captain at the time, was a passenger in one of the cars and sustained a knee injury that ruled him out for 15 months.

Bennett, who started in Derby's Championship play-off final defeat by Aston Villa just months earlier, only went on to play three more games for the club after the crash.

The former England Under-19 international joined Millwall on loan in January 2020, and it is during that stint he enraged Derby fans further when a video emerged of him yelling obscenities in the direction of Pride Park when driving past Derby's home ground.

He took to social media to apologise at the time, before joining Millwall for an undisclosed fee in August 2020.

But the continued animosity that Rams fans have for Bennett was made apparent when footage of his interview with BBC Radio Derby was posted on social media last week.

"I've told my friends and family that I wish it didn't end that way because I had such fond memories there," Bennett said.

"We had some great moments, especially that Leeds play-off semi-final [win in 2019].

"People should look and realise that we are human beings and we do make mistakes."

It was Gary Rowett, who he played under at Derby, that gave Bennett a new start at Millwall when he moved to the London side.

His three-and-a-half years at the Den produced just 11 goals in 96 league appearances before moving on to Burton in League One this season.

It has been almost 12 years since Bennett made history as a Rams teenager, and just a couple of years after that he became a father at 17.

He admits he failed to handle the early attention his career generated, despite adding that Nigel Clough, his this manager at Derby when he made his debut, did well to shield him from the limelight.

"Going to school or walking down the village was like having all eyes on you," Bennett said. "So it was a bit of a shock.

"Looking back I'd say knuckle down and don't get drawn into all the attention and stuff, just focus on what you are paid to do."

Now having amassed more than 200 English Football League appearances, he has a lot to reflect on.

Bennett also adds that he has a point to prove in the third tier with a Burton side that are third from bottom and winless in the league this season.

"A lot of people have written me off because of the stuff off the field, but I'm a footballer at the end of the day," the forward said.

"Everyone makes mistake in life and I definitely want to bounce back up the leagues, and hopefully that's with Burton."