Tyrone Mings never asked for much when he joined Aston Villa on loan from Bournemouth at the end of January. “My hopes for myself were just to come here and play football with a smile on my face,” he says. “And that is what the club has given me above and beyond everything else.”
Mings has been as good for Villa as they have for him. Frozen out and frustrated on the south coast, the central defender has helped to turn around Villa’s season as well as his own, starting more league games in four months than he managed in four years at Bournemouth and becoming a fans’ favourite in the process. He has even worn the captain’s armband. “It’s been everything that any loan player could want,” Mings says, smiling.
Although it is difficult to know just how committed a player will be when he arrives on a temporary basis, Mings has stayed true to the promise that he made immediately after signing. “In my first interview with the club, they asked me what to expect from Tyrone the player, and I said that I would leave everything on the pitch and play with my heart on my sleeve. I think if you do that, whether you’re on loan or permanent, the fans can really take to that and get behind you. That’s all they want – a player to play for the shirt and the badge.”
Mings had plenty of admirers in January – Derby County, Nottingham Forest and West Bromwich Albion showed interest – but everything added up for the former mortgage adviser when he learned that Villa was an option. Dean Smith, the manager, made it clear that he would deploy Mings at centre-back, in his preferred position, and the prospect of playing in front of a big fanbase, with a level of expectation that the 26-year-old thought would bring out the best in him, ticked another box. One of the biggest factors, though, was the presence of John Terry on the coaching staff.
John tells me: 'Go through the game without being seen.’ Those little bits of advice are great
“John Terry is a fantastic centre-back – a centre-back that a lot of people would put in their all-time Premier League XI,” Mings says. “So when I knew that there was a chance that I could come here and learn from someone like that, in my position, it was an opportunity that I couldn’t really turn down.”
Mings says Terry uses video clips to analyse every match with him afterwards. “His overriding comments to me are: ‘Go through the game without being seen.’ He tells me that a lot. And those little bits of information are obviously great. As much as you want to improve or help the team, as a centre-back your job is to go under the radar and keep the ball out of the net. If you do that and let the strikers get all the adulation and the headlines, then you’re probably doing your job.”
Villa, not surprisingly, would like to sign Mings permanently but, realistically, that transfer is likely to go ahead only if they beat Derby in Monday’s Championship play-off final. Whatever happens at Wembley, it is hard to see a long-term future for Mings at Bournemouth, who have just bought Lloyd Kelly, another left-sided central defender, from Bristol City.
Photograph: Carl Recine/Action Images via Reuters
Mings sounds like someone who needs a fresh start after a difficult time with the Premier League club. Signed from Ipswich in 2015 for a then club-record £9m fee, he endured a nightmare beginning to his Bournemouth career when he snapped a cruciate and medial ligaments six minutes into his first appearance. He also had another lengthy spell on the sidelines last season, although Mings clearly feels that could have been avoided and, talking more generally, is keen to set the record straight when it comes to his fitness.
“I have never been injury prone,” he says. “I had a seven-week back injury at Bournemouth and was out for seven months. Read into that what you want. I have never pulled a muscle and I don’t see myself as a person who needs to try and stay fit. I just need to play games and you can never replicate that in training.
“I had one serious injury, which was a tackle, and a stress fracture in my back, which was probably from over-training one summer through my off-season. Through different reasons I wasn’t able to come back on to the pitch when I should have. But I don’t see myself as someone who needs to be managed or has to worry about injuries. My knee has never given me another problem, my back has never given me another problem.”
After making only two league starts at Bournemouth this season, Mings knew that the time had come to move on when the January window opened. “I needed to come out of Bournemouth if I wasn’t going to get an opportunity there and show people what I could do,” he adds. “I don’t think it has revived my career [here], it has probably just refreshed it. I am on a path at the moment where I am feeling good, in a great place mentally and physically, and hopefully we can all taste some success come the 27th.”