Aston Villa's Tyrone Mings: I never thought ship had sailed on England chance
Tyrone Mings never believed the ship had sailed on his England dream, yet he acknowledges the boat was preparing to leave the harbour.
Should the 26-year-old win his first international cap in the next few days, it would represent the next step on a remarkable journey in which he has fought back from rejection and serious injury.
It is something which appeared a long way away as recently as nine months ago, when Mings found himself out of favour at Bournemouth, the club where he had struggled to make an impact after tearing his knee ligaments in his first Premier League appearance.
Since joining Villa on loan last January, his fortunes have changed rapidly. Just 22 appearances, a promotion and one £20million move later, he finds himself on the brink of making an England breakthrough.
“I didn’t think I had missed the boat,” says Mings. “I just thought I needed exposure and game time to show what I can do.
“There was never a time when I thought I had missed the boat. The boat was going though!”
Mings has not trodden the path alone. Since news of his call-up broke a week ago, his phone has been red-hot with calls and messages from those who helped him along the way, from Yate Town to Chippenham, from Ipswich to Bournemouth and eventually to Villa.
“I think I have heard from everyone I have ever come into contact with in football, which is nice, really nice,” said Mings, who trained as a mortgage adviser during his time in non-league.
“Everyone has played their own part in my development and has a story to tell on my journey.
“I bumped into my old Yate captain in the corridor when I came out of the gym yesterday, which was a little bit strange but also perhaps a little bit fitting.”
Mings had made only 23 appearances for Bournemouth since joining in a then club record £10million move from Ipswich, before making the loan switch to Villa which would transform his career.
England boss Gareth Southgate watched him in action for Dean Smith’s men during a 2-1 win over Blackburn back in March.
“It was a time in my career when I really needed to be playing and was enjoying playing,” explained Mings.
“That probably coincided with me playing some of the best football of my career.
“I felt free to express myself and felt away from the public eye.
“I could go there and really enjoy myself and get myself get back into a rhythm of playing and enjoying my football, working with fantastic coaches who believed in me and a team who, ultimately, were a little bit stuck at the time.
“Our results weren’t great, even when I went there. Then something changed.
“It was only when we started breaking records and getting toward the play-offs when the real media attention came back on to Aston Villa.”
Moving to Villa has also provided the chance to work with John Terry, a former England skipper who, according to club boss Smith, provides Mings with the best mentor he could hope for.
“He’s been there and achieved everything I would want to achieve in the game, so to learn from him and take little pieces of advice from him, I feel really very fortunate,” said Mings.
“We watch clips of my game back and then John will tell me what he likes and what he doesn’t like.
“At the moment there’s more of the former than the latter, but he’s worked under such great managers that he has all the experience that I’d love to have so anything he tells me really sticks.
“We then try to implement that on the training pitch. He gives me a little bit of criticism but mostly it’s a lot of positivity.”
England face Bulgaria at Wembley on Saturday, before hosting Kosovo at Southampton – the club which rejected Mings as a teenager – on Tuesday.
Appearing in either would represent another highpoint in a career Mings hopes contains many more, with both club and country.
“For England the goal has to be recognised as the best team in the world,” he said. “There’s a bit of a way to go until that happens but I think the structure and culture around the England set-up from what I’ve seen so far is one that can carry us very far.
“For Villa, we’re back in the Premier League and we’re fairly new to it so our goals have to be realistic
“But we’re an ambitious club with an ambitious manager and ambitious owners so we want to go as far as we can go.”