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First team

The Long Read: Tyrone Mings

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

On the field, Tyrone Mings has gone from the Non-League to becoming a multi-million pound player; signing for a Premier League club to soon suffering a gut-wrenching season-ending injury.

Off the field, the defender has faced everything from the low of homelessness to the high of recently becoming a father.

In a frank interview, Mings told Matchday more about the journey, the opportunities he's been afforded an how it has made him the defender - and person - he is today.

You always seem to have a rounded outlook and an ability to take a step back from the issues that can surround other footballers. Where does that come from?

Stepping back probably comes from the fact that I’ve been away from football, I’ve worked and then come into the game late so I can relate to different situations and people, these days I can also speak from a dad’s point of view.

I don’t know, I think I’ve just done so many different things in life by the age of 25. For example, I love to doing work with homeless charities, our family got split up when I was a kid through various different issues and I ended up homeless.

When you’re put in a position of relative influence it’s your duty to try and help others and try and send the ladder back down to help other people.

What sort of other opportunities arrive for you as a footballer? For one, you’ve been on Question of Sport this season.

The opportunities that are given to you as a footballer are something you need to embrace but also be wary of. It’s a situational thing so if it’s offered to you absolutely go and do it, but I’m also aware that these things won’t last forever. There are some things that are a duty to go and do, contracts obligate you to go and do them, but there are other things you can get involved with and really help others.

Be it kids charities, mental health charities, there are so many things locally which you can get involved in. I’m an ambassador for Premier League Kicks and you should feel very honoured and lucky to go and help with these things, benefitting people. When you retire you may not have these opportunities, so you have to do them while you can.

The Question of Sport thing came about after they contacted my agent a long time ago. They’re based up in Manchester so the logistics of getting there and setting aside a day to film was difficult, so I did it in the summer. I travelled up there, stayed the night and did the filming; and our team won! I watched the programme as a kid so it was great to do.

With your daughter being born over the summer you’re building up a larger family unit. How has she changed your life?

It’s the most surreal thing ever, definitely the best thing ever. People always say about the love between you and your child and that’s definitely true. I always wanted a girl, I have seven sisters so I know how to be around girls and the bond that a dad has with his daughter is strong.

She hasn’t let me down with that bond and that loving is just crazy, every day is different and it changes the way that you think, feel and work, your whole outlook on life. There’s no time to think about your needs over theirs and it changes you for the better and calms you down a lot. Two years ago if it was an international break and we had four days off I’d be off on holiday, becoming a dad settles you down and mellows you.

You, Jordon Ibe and Adam Smith are in the new fathers club, have you shared tips?

Me and Jordon actually do water babies together, we take our daughters swimming.

We should have met and done the interview there…

It’s at 6:30pm tonight if you want to come! We take our daughters to that and if you look around the changing room pretty much everyone has kids. In football people have kids quite young, I’m 25 and my reasoning was always that I want my kids to see what I do. In the future my daughter can come to games, take pictures together and she can understand what her dad does for a living. 

Also, when I say about it mellowing you, being in such a high-pressure environment having a baby kind of takes away all of that. As soon as you get through the door and having a child smiling back at you – and they don’t care about football and whether you’re playing or not playing – there’s just a lovely naiveté about kids and there’s the most honest form of being human.

Then there’s Pablo, tell me about the latest addition to your family…

He’s not quite fully grown yet, he’s going to get bigger. I used to have a Rottweiler growing up, my partner has one and they’re the dogs we’re most familiar with. They have a loving side as well as a very protective side, like most dogs.

He’s gone off and been trained to know how to look after himself and families. It’s imperative for me to have a dog who I know is calm, knows who to listen to and knows what to do in certain situations because I have a little one, so we didn’t want to cut any corners on his obedience.

You’ve not had Pablo long, but you can see there’s already a bond between you…

Absolutely, everyone who’s had a dog will know that they’re a huge part of the family and any time they’re sick or you’re sick you both kind of know, dogs can pick up on feelings and vibes around the house. There’s already a bond between us and that’s what we want, they’re pets second and companions first.

Another side to your life is with KTM Interiors. How did that start and why did you decide to go into business?

It started when I first came to the club. My business partner Katie and I went to school together back in Chippenham and the timing worked that she was finishing her MA at Bournemouth Uni when I moved here. Then I got injured and I needed something to take my mind off of that, if I didn’t have that I probably would have been in an even worse mental state.

It’s well documented that I’ve spoken about mental health and when I got injured I was in a really bad place. I placed all my happiness on getting to the Premier League, I was a big signing for the club and there was a weight of expectation that came with that as well as from myself looking to prove that I could do it in the Premier League, and it all got taken away in one moment.

It was such a huge high and then to be cut down and knowing I wouldn’t play again that season and potentially Bournemouth could get relegated before I had the chance to play in the Premier League; it was a difficult time for me having to place all my trust and my career in the hands of other people.

KTM gave me a chance to think about something more positive and to channel my emotions into something which could offer me a way of being happy away from football.

How does the pleasure of playing football compare with the pleasure of taking on a project with your business?

They’re different, there’s a lot more of a delayed gratification with a project and you see reactions as you go along, we very rarely do a project, then pull back the curtain and unveil it. In a football match you have that final whistle and that rush of adrenaline and emotion when you’ve been so wired up through the game. They’re a lot different and being able to have those things away from football you realise that nothing will ever compare to the feeling on the pitch.

The manager’s said he’s got the strongest squad he’s ever had. How do you catch his attention to make sure he gives you an opportunity?

It’s difficult because I haven’t played much football. The conversations that we have are that he knows I want to play but that I have to realise I’m in a great space in terms of being fit and healthy after being injured for a long time.

I’ve been at the club for three years, one whole season I was out injured, last season I was out for eight months with my back so putting everything into perspective I’m relatively new back to being fit. At the same time I want to play football and feel I’m good enough to, the conversations that we have are never about ability but more about timing.

It’s a cliché but it’s about working hard – and you can’t say much when the team are high in the league! Ultimately the team and the club are bigger than you and you want them to do well as that benefits everybody.

I know from personal experience that things can change quickly in football, for the better or for worse. One injury, one suspension and things change, so if you’re not in a positive mental mind frame you’re not going to be able to take it.

In terms of that patience, unlike a striker who can come on and score a goal, is it more difficult as a centre-back because taking your chance is a slower process?

Yeah, it really is. Because you want to impress there’s a side of you that thinks if you try something a little bit harder it’ll stick in the manager’s mind, but the benefit you get from that isn’t very much and if it doesn’t come off and they score the downside is a lot worse.

Getting into the team you have to make as little noise as possible: come in, keep a clean sheet, have as solid a game as possible. Those are the positives you want to get as no-one remembers a centre-back unless they make a mistake, the challenge is to do as little wrong as possible.

I’ve fallen foul of that in games before and it’s a learning curve. At centre-back I’ve not played that many games so with the manager and the players we have it is a good opportunity to learn, now I just want to put that into practice in games. 

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Tyrone Mings at Parkstone Yacht Club

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