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'I might try to be Prime Minister' - England defender Mings opens up on the future, football and racism

4:00 PM MYT 08/11/2021
Tyrone Mings and Boris Johnson
The Three Lions defender is unapologetic about finding his voice and talking about issues beyond the sport that he plays

When asked what he might do after he retires, England defender Tyrone Mings replies, "I might try to be Prime Minister."

The answer is very much tongue in cheek, but it says much about the confidence and well-rounded nature of the 28-year-old.

"I am fairly open because retirement isn’t something that worries me," he adds. "I don’t feel like I have to be shoehorned into a coaching role because it is all I know.

"It excites me thinking about what could come up post-football, but I am definitely not there yet."

As he enters his prime years, Mings finds using his voice hugely empowering.

He was one of those who came out and defended his fellow England players this summer when they were criticised by ministers in their own Government for taking the knee at the European Championship in support of the ongoing fight against racism.

After the Three Lions fell short, losing the final to Italy on penalties, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka all faced a deluge of racism on social media.

Again, Mings felt compelled to make himself heard, and he criticised Home Secretary Priti Patel for "stoking the fires" of discrimination.

Having also spoken out on other issues like mental health in the past, Mings admits that he is unwilling to stay out of politics despite cries in some quarters for him to do so.

"A lot of people don’t want us to go into politics too deeply," Mings tells Goal. "I get that people want football to be escapism and keep politics and sport removed from each other, but it will never be the case.

"There were difficult conversations before the tournament about not taking the knee, attitudes towards the players or a lack of support. That stuff maybe gave us more drive but it certainly brought the England players together.

"In the last two years, we’ve had difficult conversations with people having to decide where they stand. The white guys are exposed to different forms of discrimination but not racism itself.

"These guys are able to see the hurt that it causes on their team-mates, though, and they want to stand up and put their head above the parapet as a [white] ally. That’s a real positive and it goes a long way to create a team spirit and bond between teams.

The Aston Villa captain continues: "People think the bar is set low for footballers but there’s a lot of well-spoken, intelligent players. You can’t judge knowledge just on how you speak.

"Look at Marcus Rashford with what he is doing. He doesn’t always come across as the most articulate but when you ask what he is involved in, then he is very knowledgeable on the subject. He isn’t just putting his name to it, he knows what he is talking about.

"As footballers, it is just about being authentic and getting that true reflection of who that person is. I am pleased football is giving me a platform to do other things in the future."

Mings' approach may not be for others in the game. He is uniquely placed to have a broader view outside of the game having been released by Southampton as a teenager. He was forced into non-league football to carve out a career for himself, looking to get spotted during spells at Yate Town and Chippenham Town.

During those part-time football days, he worked as a barman and a mortgage advisor. Ultimately, Ipswich Town signed him for £10,000 ($13,500) and he began his ascent to the pinnacle of the game.

Mings now takes his status as an international footballer very seriously and, like Cristiano Ronaldo, is employing a team around him to keep pace with his peers.

"Going into the England set up was a real eye-opener," Mings added. "Quality on the pitch is one thing, but when you really scratch the surface at what has got those players into the England squad, which is as high as it gets at our level, it is all about repeating excellence every day.

"It really is all about their good habits. I didn’t have a low level of professionalism before, but it was through seeing players like Jordan Henderson and Harry Kane, who are doing the gym work every single day, leading by example and encouraging others, that I started implementing other things in my game.

"As a captain now, it is even more important to lead by example. I use a psychologist which I find really helps me. I have a chef, osteopath and masseur.

"Cristiano Ronaldo goes to extreme lengths using cryochambers and things like that. The team he has, I am sure, is huge. That’s something that he thinks works for him and all players are different. I have my team and I feel it benefits me."

For those meeting Mings for the first time, it can come as a surprise to discover such a thoughtful and fun character, given his combative style on the pitch. It's something that the Bath-born defender is aware of.

"I think a lot of fan bases out there don’t like me because of how I played against their team or things I've said," he admits. "I genuinely do think that I am a completely different person when I go onto the pitch. I have such a desire to win and succeed that sometimes it is portrayed in different ways.

"I think anyone who doesn’t like me because of how I am on the pitch, I would encourage them to chat to me off it. If it still stands [that you don't like me], then fair play, but I think it is healthy to have that fight inside you and that willingness to win on the pitch."

Mings will keep fighting for his club and country on the pitch but it will be interesting to see where life takes him once his playing days are up. No.10 Downing Street? Don't rule it out...

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