Tyrone Mings’ Roots Run Deep

Tyrone Mings’ Roots Run Deep

A leader on and off the pitch, Tyrone Mings’ story is an inspiration for all young ballers to never give up. No matter the circumstances.

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February 24th 2023

When it comes to his journey into football, Tyrone Mings is an outlier. The well trodden path of academy graduate to pro-baller, was not the route destined for the Aston Villa and England centre-back.

After training with Southampton at an early age, he was dropped from the academy at 15. He began work as a mortgage advisor and spent the best part of his formative years, bouncing between non-league clubs, whilst simultaneously balancing full-time work. His persistence to ‘make it’ finally paid off when he was scouted by Ipswich Town in 2012. At the time he was playing for non-league side Chippenham Town F.C. After a string of injuries threatened to put a premature end to his flourishing career, he finally broke through the ranks signing for Premier League side AFC Bournemouth in 2015 before joining his current side Aston Villa four years later. That same year, he also earned his first cap for England under Gareth Southgate.

The adversity of Mings’ on-pitch story has informed his off-the pitch interests. Over the years he’s established and invested in a wide array of exploits outside of the game including, running an interior design business. But never straying too far away from his roots, he also launched the Tyrone Mings academy - offering community led, pro-coaching to 6-16 year olds.

The essence of giving back is at the heart of Tyrone’s character. Having spent time at a homeless centre as a child, he’s witnessed first hand the challenges faced to overcome barriers that are outside of his control. For him, now more than ever, the ability to ensure he supports individuals and institutions that helped shape him - on and off the pitch - is more important than ever.

VERSUS caught up with the Mitre ambassador to discuss his untraditional route into the game, the value of community and his connection with grassroots football.

VERSUS: Let’s start by talking about Mitre. You and I are similar in age. I grew up with Mitre footballs, as I’m sure you did too. I can remember a bag full of bright orange ones down at my local leisure centre on a Saturday morning, I’ve even got one in my flat still! What was your first memory of the brand?

Tyrone Mings: Probably the same! I want to say the Ultimax was my first ball but I might be wrong – the original blue, red and white ball. It’s a shame for a brand so embedded in British football culture that it’s now only confined to the FA Cup. But the first footballs I had growing up were definitely Mitre balls. Other balls came into popularity, but for Mitre to still be here now is testament not only to the quality of their product, but the brand itself.

So my earliest memories were similar to yours – playing with them at school, playing with them at home, kicking them around the front room, no doubt breaking some ornaments!

Me too! It’s got that real nostalgic feel. The brand is, of course, rooted deeply in grassroots values. How do you think these values connect with your own story?

Well obviously I came up through and spent a lot of time in non-league, grassroots football. Any footballer has a grassroots story to tell but Mitre are so active in helping communities, trying to uplift communities, trying to support communities, whilst also staying true to their beliefs as well. Mitre is a very strong brand, you don’t see them deviate away from these things they’re so deeply rooted in and connected to.

On their socials, you see that a lot of their content is about the grassroots and non-league game, so I feel it definitely aligns with me, my story and my football academies – they obviously supply footballs to the academies, only the best!

You mentioned your academy, which has been running for a few years now. What does it mean to be able to give back to your community and grassroots players especially in this way?

It’s massive for me. My journey is well documented and when you get to a level where you feel like you can give back and help people overcome some of the challenges that you faced, I think it’s your responsibility and duty to do so. And that is something that runs through everything I do.

The academy gives me an opportunity to stay away from professional academy football. The true spirit of the game should be about fun and that’s what we try to base the academy sessions on, keeping football fun for as long as possible without the added pressure of having to win or trying to impress a coach. Quite often players learn best when they’re without restrictions and that’s the core of what we try to do and like you said, it’s been running for a few years and long may it continue. We’ve started to play games, we’ve got junior boys’ and girls’ teams, so it’s developing nicely, but I try to keep what I’m most passionate about at the centre of our work, which is relieving young players from stress and pressure too early – that’s the focal point.

Have you had any players go into pro-careers after playing and developing at your academies?

So the academy started in its infancy as extra training sessions. You don’t have to leave your current club to attend our academy. If you play for your team on Saturday, we would maybe only train for your age group on a Wednesday, for example. And we have had people go into pro-clubs but it wouldn’t be something that we merit ourselves on, or gauge our success by. If we did, we’d then have people starting to say things like: “I want to go there as it gives me the chance to get into a pro-club”, which is not what it’s all about.

On the subject of academies, you didn’t take the typical route into professional football yourself – as mentioned earlier. Rather than being an academy graduate, you worked your way up the ranks through English football to where you are today. How did that journey in particular help to shape you as a player and a person?

It’s definitely exposed me to some real world problems that you wouldn’t be exposed to if you came through an academy system, which I think as a person can only be good and can only make you more well rounded. It gave me the ability to see the world through a different lens, and with the transferable skills I’ve picked up because of those experiences, I’ve been able to relate to a lot of different people in football.

It’s allowed me to relate to fans in a different way or corporate sponsors in a different way, for example. It’s helped me to really understand that everyone sees football from a different point of view. Whilst you’re in and amongst it as a player you see it one way but the fans see it a completely different way – obviously they’ve invested in the game with so much more emotion than most. Whilst the ‘people in suits’ view it as a business for instance.

So my journey has allowed me to navigate my way through the football world and maybe see it through the eyes of many, as opposed to just myself or a few.

Alongside your playing career, you have an interest in business too. Do you think seeing things through different lenses and having a non-traditional route into the game, has been beneficial in your exploits in business?

Yeah definitely! Business has always been something that I’ve been interested in and maybe when I finish football I’ll be able to find a space somewhere that merges football and business, but I don’t know what that looks like right now. But it’s definitely helped.

At the same time, when you can see the world through different people’s eyes, sometimes it can be a hindrance as well because there is a lot of empathising and compromising. Whereas if you’re solely focused on playing and it’s all you know, everything is a lot more straightforward. It definitely helps but it helps more off the pitch, my journey, than on it.

If you could have offered me the traditional route into football, the hours I would have played, the coaches I would have been exposed to, it probably would have helped me in terms of technical analysis. But I also don’t have the hours in my legs that some of the academy players have been exposed to. I’m turning 30 next month and when you get to the latter stages of your career, you don’t have the same level of games as someone who started playing professional football at 17-18. So, I don’t know if there’s a right or wrong answer, but I’m forever grateful for my journey.

Jumping back to your relationship with Mitre, they’ve released their Ultimax Pro ball, which allows players at all levels to play with a FIFA Quality Pro approved match ball. Why is it so important for players – across all levels – to have access to quality footballs like this one?

Well in its most simplest form, it’s great to get used to what you’ll be exposed to. If you could expose someone to all the high-level facilities professional footballers have access to when they are at grassroots level, you absolutely would. But subject to funding and availability of facilities it’s obviously not that easy. But the balls are the most important thing and everyone practises on their own with a ball. Wherever you’re on holiday, on a beach, in your back garden or in the local park, having access to that quality ball will only help for sure. Having access to such quality footballs will also help in our academy. The head of our academy is UEFA A License qualified, so we try to expose players to as much high level coaching as possible. Whether pro-academy or not, this shouldn’t stop you from having access to the best equipment.

Changing tact a little bit, you’ve spoken about your journey and of course, over the years you’ve grown and developed into the player and person you are today. If you could go back and speak to your teenage-self, what piece of advice or words of encouragement would you give?

Quite naturally it would be to never give up. And I know it’s hard to accept that advice – it’s very easy to give it out and so hard to accept it. But I remember when I nearly dropped out of football altogether when I was a mortgage advisor and my Dad said to me: “stick with it, something will change”. I’d been to so many trials at non-league clubs without anything happening for me, then eventually when I got the opportunity it was an upward trajectory. I enjoyed the first couple of years in professional football but then got my knee injury. For those moments that I thought I had it all figured out, I didn’t. Or when I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, that piece of advice has definitely carried me through.

What sort of legacy do you want to leave and do you think Mitre can help you to achieve it?

Legacy isn’t something I think about too much. But I remember my first interview for Aston Villa, I was asked: “for Villa fans who haven’t seen you play before, what can they expect of you?” And I said – four years ago – I feel like I’m a player that leaves everything on the pitch. There’s no question of my loyalty once I’m tied to a team.

Every time I step on the pitch, the only way I know how to play is to give everything. That is important for me, to know that I have no regrets at the end of my career and to know that I maximised everything I could have. And if young players looking up at me think, “I want to play like that because he gives everything”, that’s good enough for me.

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