ENGLAND ace Tyrone Mings reveals today he needed therapy to overcome mental health problems during England’s heroic Euros campaign.
The 6ft 5in Aston Villa defender played a key part at the start of England’s run to the final but recalls being dubbed the team’s “weakest link”.
He says: “I did have a tough time in the lead-up to the opening game against Croatia.
“I think I’m a lot more hardened to outside influences now, but my mental health did plummet.
“And I have no shame in admitting that because there was so many unknowns about me going to that game.
“I was probably the only name on the teamsheet that people thought, ‘Not sure about him’. And that was something I had to overcome.
“When 90-95 per cent of your country are having doubts over you, it’s very difficult to stop this intruding on your own thoughts.
“So I did a lot of work on that with my psychologist. I was given a lot of coping mechanisms — whether it was breathing, meditation, or just learning how to bring yourself into the present moment. To stop letting your subconscious take over.
“It was hard. I didn’t really sleep very well before that first game.”
Tyrone, 28, deputised for the injured Harry Maguire in England’s games against Croatia and Scotland. Ahead of the tournament, some fans on social media questioned his selection.
BBC pundit Rio Ferdinand even told viewers before the Croatia match: “I think it’s the weakest part of our team, and an area where most people are concerned.
“He has not played Champions League football, he has not played at this level.”
When 90-95 per cent of your country are having doubts over you, it’s very difficult to stop this intruding on your own thoughts.
Tyrone reveals the former Manchester United centre back later contacted him privately, to praise him for his performances on and off the pitch.
The latter was a reference to his stance on taking the knee, and taking on Home Secretary Priti Patel over Twitter.
Tyrone says: “Rio DM’d me after the tournament. He’d said I was the weak link, and that Croatia should be targeting me.
“He messaged me saying something like, ‘Top-class response — matched your performances on the pitch.’ What a lovely guy.
“It’s just great that we are playing in a time now when you can speak about mental health, and how you are feeling.”
Discussing the pressure placed on top-level stars, he also gave his backing to US Olympian Simone Biles, who has pulled out of finals to prioritise her mental health.
He says: “We have seen with Simone Biles you can speak on how you are feeling and hopefully feel supported by many people.”
Tyrone’s comments come a year after he filmed a BBC documentary with Prince William — part of the royal’s Head’s Up campaign — raising awareness around mental health. In the documentary Villa fan Wills said Tyrone was his favourite player.
Ahead of the Euros, which saw England reach a final for the first time in 55 years, Tyrone was one of the squad’s lesser known players. Now he is a household name.
Off the pitch, Tyrone has also made his mark and is a vociferous anti-racism campaigner.
Sadly he is also no stranger to trolling — but he found the abuse of England team-mates Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka especially hard to take.
He adds: “It’s always upsetting. It’s awful to say this, but it’s nothing new. It’s not surprising. But it’s not, and should never be, accepted. I think we all spoke to those players after the game because we had just lost the tournament and they were devastated about the penalties.
“We weren’t even aware of the racist abuse at this point.
‘I’VE BEEN STOPPED BY POLICE’
“We could just see how upset they were, how they felt they had let people down.
“But that’s never the case when you step up and take a penalty. When you put yourself in that situation, you should never be abused for the outcome.”
Tyrone, who works with a number of charities and volunteers at food shelters, goes on: “Footballers are great people but we should always be striving to be better humans”.
And he believes they should continue taking the knee before Premier League games.
He explains: “I always say taking the knee doesn’t always have to be about race. I know that it was started by Black Lives Matter, and those three words are impactful, but it’s never just about race.
“It’s about showing a unified symbol and unified gestures of all forms of discrimination and everybody will take the knee for their own reasons.”
Tyrone started out earning £45 a week playing for non-League Yate Town whilst working part-time in a pub before eventually signing for Villa from Bournemouth for £20million in 2019.
Revealing for the first time his experiences with racial profiling, he says: “I’ve been stopped by police in my car a few times.
“I was in Chippenham — which is where I grew up so you’d think they’d know better — but they pulled me over and said something about my car not being registered around here, and wanted to know why I was in the area.
“I mean, I was in a Range Rover which I’m pretty sure isn’t illegal.
“I’ve had some subtle stuff as well, like being in the shops and getting funny looks, things like that.
“But I don’t think we are in a time when it’s as bad as it once was. And we’re so fortunate to live in a world where we’re not put in prison for our beliefs, or for the colour of our skin.”
Like his England team-mates Rashford and Raheem Sterling, Tyrone is continually pushing for social change.
He is in “an ongoing conversation” with the PFA, the player liaison officer at Aston Villa and West Midlands Police in a bid to clamp down on trolls.
He believes social media users should give details of a driving licence or passport to open an account, and that the worst offenders should face jail.
We’re so fortunate to live in a world where we’re not put in prison for our beliefs, or for the colour of our skin.
Tyrone adds: “If you want someone to go to prison for something they said, or you want them brought to justice for something they wrote, you shouldn’t have to go out of your way to also attend court, to speak to the police ten times and write ten separate statements. It’s too draining.
“More needs to be done to make the process quicker and easier. At present there’s no sustainability.”
Tyrone used lockdown to take up jujitsu and the piano “because I like challenging myself with things I’m not very good at”.
He also secretly battled long Covid after being struck with the virus in March, before routine testing came into play. I was so ill,” he says.
“It was awful. I had all the symptoms, and I lost my senses of smell and taste from that day for eight months. It was heartbreaking — I was going through all the different food groups trying to work out how I could get my taste back.
“I remember my smell coming back very faint. I would spray perfume and I would get a faint whiff.
“With my taste, it was like my brain was telling me what something tasted like.
“I still wouldn’t eat foods I didn’t like, even though I couldn’t taste anything. It made no sense.
“I remember finally going for a curry one time and I got the faintest taste and I thought, ‘Here we go. It’s coming back!”
Returning to his memories of the Euros, Tyrone says manager Gareth Southgate helped reinforce a sense of patriotism in the squad.
He says: “There were quite a lot of conversations about pride, and wearing the England shirt, and singing the national anthem.
“We know what the national anthem represents, what it stands for, and we know how much it means to other people as well.
“We thought, what would fans do in an England shirt? They’d sing.
“Without forcing it, it just came naturally for us to be like that.
“Hopefully fans see like-minded people and players representing them. We all want to leave the shirt in a better place than we found it.”
Tyrone and the other players clearly had a summer to remember holed up together in the England camp. He says: “We had different cuisines, people coming in and cooking; pizza one night, Caribbean another night, etc.
“We had a lot of movie premieres, and watched The Fast and the Furious. There was a lot of dancing. Some of the lads played golf, I organised a basketball mini tournament.
“Tom Cruise did a message for us before Top Gun, but I missed it.
“People are going to be horrified, they will hate this, but I’m really not a Top Gun fan. So I stayed in my room and played Call Of Duty.”