Sometimes players just seem like a perfect match for a club, and vice versa – this is the case with Tyrone Mings and Aston Villa.
Words: Andy Bates | @VillaK2
Only five weeks since Aston Villa’s great Premier League survival and just under a fortnight until Aston Villa’s football season returns, the media around Villa has been completely dominated by Jack Grealish and his rather delayed and very much deserved ascent to the full England squad.
As I glanced through Gareth Southgate’s initial squad list, searching for the words ‘Jack Grealish’, before the sinking disappointment, a warm glow emerged as I fixated on Tyrone Mings, placed amongst the defenders section. It has almost been taken for granted and that fact alone is something quite remarkable.
We all know the story now, late starter spotted at a trial by Mick McCarthy and fast tracked into the Ipswich Town first team, before a huge (at the time) £8 million move to newly promoted Bournemouth. Then two crushing long term injuries completely halted Mings’ progress for 3 years, as he watched names like Nathan Ake and Mepham rise above him.
The subsequent darkness which Mings’ endured during this time is well documented, as he struggled to find his way back. Then came the opportunity. Aston Villa, for years a complete basket case of a club, lurching from one crisis to the next, but now under a new coaching team, led by Dean Smith and backed up by defensive legend John Terry. In truth though still finding it’s feet, with a defence held together by James Chester, himself playing 2 games a week with a serious knee injury.
Tyrone Mings and Aston Villa were made for each other. Both needed the other more than either knew. Villa were crying out for a vocal and brave leader, who would drag the team on with his character. Tyrone needed a platform to play and build, not only his match fitness but also his confidence. The rest is history.
Now, 18 months on, Villa have an England centre back for the first time since Gareth Southgate himself.
As speculation swirled about Southgate’s potential reasons for not fancying Grealish despite his immense talent, it is easy to see what appeals about Mings. Besides his defensive ability and organisation qualities, he is a leader of men, a captain in all but name and one of a clutch of new age football states-people who are standing up to tackle some of the worst of society’s injustices.
Indeed it was Mings on his England debut, away in Bulgaria last season, who faced down vile racist abuse to call out a section of racist Bulgarians and set in motion the three step protocol to take on the awful scenes on that evening. That is a measure of the man. He won’t put his head below the parapet, he will stand up for his beliefs and his team mates, even as a newbee international, which will not be lost on his England coach.
Off the pitch, Mings was also pictured at a Black Lives Matter protest march in Birmingham, following the murder of George Floyd in America. Whilst this was during the national Coronavirus lockdown, it spoke volumes that Mings, who would’ve been preparing for a return to action with ‘Project Restart’ well on the way at the time, would prioritise the continued struggle against racial injustice, to add his voice to the cause.
Whilst the joy and pride at Jack Grealish’s eventual England call up this week is totally understandable, given his lifelong love and affinity with Aston Villa and the fans, Tyrone Mings’ international success is arguably just as notable. In Mings we have adopted ‘one of our own’ and a professional who we can be truly proud of not only as our centre half, but as a leader in society, alongside other players like Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling, who also do valuable work in their communities.
Tyrone may not be Villa ‘born and brung up’, but he is certainly a player who is thriving and whom the fans have taken to their hearts and will revel in his success for both club and country, for years to come.