Tyrone Mings is not only one of the best defenders to grace Villa Park in over a decade, he’s one of the best human beings too.
It is the ultimate curse of sport. The supporters of a sporting team often forget that the players that they cheer on with all of their heart are human beings, too. It’s easy to forget that they are prone to mistakes, just like we are. It’s easy to have a lapse in judgement when critiquing their ability, just like the every-day person does. It’s easy to forget that these players have lived lives before being a professional footballer. Some of those lives are mired in tragedy and heartache. Some of those lives were not easy in any facet. Some of us, as humans, get dealt a difficult situation very early in life.
In the case of Tyrone Mings, it isn’t just about his ability on a football pitch. Mings has been one of the better defenders to grace Aston Villa in recent years.
He is also one of the better humans, as well.
The thing that is always on display, but rarely noted, is the smile. Mings seems to be always smiling, no matter if he is training, playing in a competitive game or interacting with Aston Villa supporters. He has an eclectic glow to him as a person that draws others to him. Of course, his ability as a football player may have something to do with the adoration he receives every single game he plays for Villa.
The towering defender is only at Aston Villa via loan, but you could not tell by the amazing support he has received. But, there’s something else worth noting. Mings seems to be happy at the present time. Genuinely and unashamedly happy.
This was not always the case.
As people, we know that life is not going to be smiles all of the time, every single day. It wouldn’t be out of bounds to say that the people you see smiling the most, have likely been through some very difficult and very dark times previously. Tyrone Mings is no different. By now, it is no secret that Mings, his sisters and his mother were forced into a homeless shelter when Tyrone was very young. Mings has spoken at length about what a difficult situation that can be for any person.
In a recent interview with The Telegraph, Mings said of his experience in an homeless shelter:
“My mum had come out of not a great relationship and we had nowhere else to go.
We lived with the guy in Chippenham and there was no other alternative.
One day we just had to up and leave, and that was the only place we could go.
I remember it vividly, it was horrendous – communal washing area, communal showers, it was awful.
The people who were in there weren’t always the nicest, we were in there for a long time, six months to a year, and when you are in primary school that wasn’t a nice experience.”
Mings would go on to use football as an escape from his unfortunate situations like many before him. For most, playing football is an outlet. You can channel the emotions of whatever else is going on in your life into a physically and mentally productive activity. There are multiple stories throughout the world where some of the very best professional athletes have been through the ringer in their lives.
After his family was eventually put into social housing, Mings would find himself at the Southampton academy in 2001 as an eight year old, but was released in 2009. Yearning to continue his passion for the game, Mings gained a two-year scholarship Millfield School. Once his scholarship ended, he joined non-league side Yate Town. Eventually, his tireless work ethic would pay off and Mings would sign for his hometown team, Chippenham Town in 2012. The work he put in was not going unnoticed, as Ipswich Town would and then-boss Mick McCarthy really enjoyed Mings’ style of play.
Mings would join Ipswich in 2013 after a short trial with Ipswich, granting the defender his first tangible opportunity at professional football. Mings broke through the ranks at Ipswich via Aaron Cresswell being sold to West Ham and was handed the number three shirt soon after. A classy gesture from Mings saw him purchase new kits with his new number for two grateful Ipswich fans, as he was wearing number fifteen in previous seasons. This is just a nibble of how thoughtful and genuinely nice Mings is as a person. Mings also treated a fan from Twitter to tickets for a game after the fan wished him well before a game, citing that he was ‘skint’ and unable to make it. A consummate professional and an all around nice person would only be able to hand out such a magical gesture.
Between 2012 and 2015, Mings would feature 57 times for Ipswich as a left-back. In the summer of 2015, Mings would join newly promoted Bournemouth, for a fee rumoured to be in the neighborhood of 8 million pounds. Everything was looking up for Mings and you can be certain that the move invigorated and pushed Mings to become a better footballer. All of the pieces were falling into place for him and it appeared as though this was his destiny.
Then the unthinkable happened.
Mings was subbed on at half-time to make his debut for Bournemouth in late August of 2015. A mere six minutes into his debut, Mings was on the floor and clutching at his knee. The young and vibrant defender would need a stretcher to get off of the pitch. In the coming days, it would be announced that Mings suffered a terrible knee injury that would keep him sidelined for nine to twelve months. Could you imagine? A dream move to the Premier League and six minutes into your first game, an injury throws you into the pit of despair.
Mings has spoken very candidly about what that injury did to his mental well-being. He was under the impression that his career as he knew it was over because of the injury. Football is unique in the aspect that once you’re given an opportunity, it’s yours to lose. That, sadly, includes an injury that no one ever sees coming down the line. This unique set of circumstances could not be ignored for Mings; he slumped into mental disdain. It would be a long and treacherous sixteen months of recovering, battling his own demons and trying to regain his place at Bournemouth.
“When it got to the diagnosis of my knee and when I realised how long I was going to be out, my thoughts spiralled out of control.
I would shut myself away, I didn’t want to do rehab.
I didn’t want to do anything to get my knee better, I didn’t want to talk to anyone.
It was only when I went to see the manager and told him how I was feeling that he said ‘you need help’.”
Mings would have yet another set-back to his career at Bournemouth. A back injury would keep him sidelined for another eight months and he was beginning to gain the reputation with the Cherries supporters that while the defender was very talented, he was also very injury prone. Mings just wanted to make things right as badly as possible, but it seemed as though he fell out of favor with Bournemouth head coach Eddie Howe.
Mings would find himself being dispatched on loan to Aston Villa in January of 2019 and his impact on the squad cannot be ignored. But it is his personally felt social responsibility that should be talked about more often. Mings is a massive advocate for mental health, assisting homelessness in any way that he can and generally just being an amazing human being. With his mired past, it’s easy to see why these topics mean so much to him. He has been helping homeless people since he was a 20 year old at Ipswich, and has been seen doing the very same thing at every club he has been with. Over the span of his career to the present day, Mings has worked with local charities and community outreach programs. He may not be the only player to do things such as these, but it is a wonderful and compelling story for youngsters that may have to walk the very same path that Mings has had to.
“I’ve been in a lot of unfavourable situations growing up, so I know what it’s like to need help. If you are in any position of influence, then it’s almost your duty to try to help. If people don’t have the ability or opportunity to help themselves, then sometimes it’s got to come from someone who can.”
There is no measurement for having class and that is exactly what Tyrone Mings embodies. His footballing ability speaks for itself since joining Aston Villa on loan. The off-field Tyrone Mings seems to be just as passionate as on the field, albeit in two totally different ways. Every Aston Villa supporter is hoping to get promoted to the Premier League via the Play-Off Final for even a chance to sign him to permanent deal.
Let’s face it, Villa wouldn’t be just looking to acquire a skilled defender in Mings. They would be welcoming, with open arms, a fantastic human being as well.