BIG INTERVIEW: Tyrone Mings on being released by Southampton for being ‘too small’ and how he’s dealing with the Arsenal transfer speculation
- Credit: Ashley Pickering
Premier League clubs are sniffing around Tyrone Mings following his rapid progress at Ipswich Town, but the 21-year-old was released by Southampton at the age of 15 for being ‘too small’. STUART WATSON spoke to the 6ft 3in left-back ahead of the Blues’ FA Cup match at the Saints on Sunday.
Q: Hi Tyrone. First of all, having missed the last three matches, how’s the toe injury?
A: “The toe’s alright. I had a bit of a problem with my ankle after that, I think it was the mechanics of how I was walking and trying to protect my toe. I strained my ankle but that’s all fine now.”
Q: You were on the bench for Tuesday night’s 3-0 home win over Charlton and the manager has said you will have to bide your time with Jonny Parr doing well at left-back...
A: “This season’s gone well so far, but obviously it’s a team game. Jonny came in, played well, and I guess the manager has seen it only fair to stick with him. I guess I’ll have to wait for my chance.”
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Q: You started off as an academy player with Southampton. Tell us a bit about how that came about.
A: “They have a satellite centre in Bath and I lived 20 minutes away from there. They scouted me at Chippenham when I was seven, I think, then I joined up with Southampton at eight and stayed there until I was 15.”
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Q: What was it like being released? That must be devastating for any young player?
A: “I knew it was coming for a while. Alex (Oxlade) Chamberlain and I both used to play down an age group, we played for the Under-15s when we should have been in the 16s because they said neither of us were big enough.
“They were playing me as a left-sided centre-half or left winger. I wasn’t really much of a dominant figure because I was small. I guess when I was 15 I was about 5ft 8in. It’s funny. I kind of knew it was coming. They told me in February I was being released, I grew a bit, and went to Millfield in the August.”
Q: That’s Millfield School, right? Explain what that was. A combination of academics and football?
A: “That’s right. Dave Hedges worked for Southampton in their satellite centre in Bath and he had a few connections with Millfield. They had three scholarships for football that year and I got one.
“I did a bit of BTEC sport and some AS Psychology. There was a lot of free time in the school day which meant I could use the gym. Every day we’d play football.”
Q: And you obviously grew a lot at that time. Was that difficult because a lot of young players say it’s hard to develop as a footballer while you’re still growing into your body.
A: “Yeah. And that’s probably why it was good that I came away from professional the game. Maybe I’d have struggled with that if I was still in a scholarship. At Millfield they have such a wide range of facilities with the pool and the gym and the athletics track. I think it was a better time for me to go away and be in that environment rather than a football environment where everything is performance and results based.”
Q: Hindsight’s a wonderful thing, of course. There must have been real disappointment when Southampton let you go though?
A: “No. I think my parents were probably worse then me. I’m quite a laid-back person. I just started looking for other options. I went to Bristol Rovers, I went to Swindon, but the general consensus, at the time, was that I wasn’t big enough to go and play Under-18s football. If that was everyone’s opinion at the time then that was probably the right decision.”
Q: Did that rejection spur you on?
A: “I don’t know if that decision spurred me on, what I subsequently did spurred me on more. Going to Millfield and playing football every day meant my development was quite remarkable. How I was physically when I went there and how I was when I left was quite frightening. I was about 5ft 10 when I went there and about 6ft 2in when I left.
“That, coupled with working and playing non-league, gave me the motivation to get back into the game rather than Southampton not giving me a scholarship.”
Q: Did you nearly give up football at any stage?
A: “Absolutely. The summer of 2012, the same year that I signed for Ipswich, I’d been travelling on public transport to and from work and to and from Yate games and training.
“I thought there was no way I could do that for another year because I couldn’t drive at the time. I couldn’t see me getting a break into the pro game. I lived with my dad (Adie) at the time, he was manager at Chippenham, and he just said ‘keep going and see what happens’.
“Luckily I passed my driving test a day before the season started with Yate. That gave me the motivation to keep going. I continued and it proved to be a good decision!”
Q: What was the car?
A: “A little green Saxo with white wheels! I was about 6ft 2in so it wasn’t the most comfortable for me!”
Q: So was it the right decision by Southampton to let you go, at that given moment?
A: “Right now, I’d say yes. I’m happy with the way I’ve gone about getting back into the pro game. I think I’ve had a much better, much more well-rounded upbringing. I’ve had a sight of what, I guess, the real world is like.
“You have that initial disappointment. You think ‘will I ever get back into the game?’ It’s difficult, but I’ve seen working life, I’m happy I’ve experienced that and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
Q: You mentioned your dad before. He’s a scout at Chelsea now. How big a role does he play in your career?
A: “Well he got the job at Chelsea in October and I immediately went to Chippenham, my local club, because previously I didn’t want to play under him!
“When he was working at Chelsea he had a bit more of an educated opinion about what it would take for me to get back into the pro game and the level that was required. He just told me if I keep going there will be a break.
“Russell (Osman, then Town youth team coach and father of Chippenham player Toby) got me the opportunity to come up here and the rest, as they say, is history.
“I speak to dad every day. He’s a good person to have to go to for advice because he knows the game. Any advantage he gives me is quite beneficial.”
Q: And is it right that you almost signed for Hereford, now folded of course, before coming to Ipswich?
A: “Yeah! Luckily enough – in hindsight – they were under a transfer embargo so they couldn’t sign me, even though they were quite keen. Two months later I was signing for Ipswich!”
Q: What a journey. And now, here we are, you being linked with the likes of Arsenal and other Premier League clubs. How do you deal with all that speculation?
A: “It’s very, very easy really. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. All that speculation has come from me playing well at Ipswich and getting an opportunity here. So that’s just what I try and keep on doing.
“I don’t know if a bid would turn my head. If that day comes then we’ll see, but I doubt it.”
Q: So you see yourself remaining an Ipswich player beyond January then?
A: “Absolutely. I don’t see any reason why anything else would happen.”
Q: Have you spoken to the manager about any potential bids?
A: “The manager’s not said anything to me about it. I don’t think there is anything to say. The manager doesn’t want to lose anyone and I’m not looking to go anywhere. So it’s a very short conversation.
“The most important thing for me is to be playing games – and that’s what’s happening at the minute.
“I’m trying to further my development. I’m very happy at Ipswich and that’s where my focus is.
“Ipswich getting to the Premier League and me playing for them there would be a dream come true.”
Q: Do you see yourself as a specialist left-back or could you end up playing at centre-back?
A: “I’d be happy to play centre-back, but I also enjoy playing left-back. I think my attributes – my height and my speed – allow me to play anywhere along the back four. If that meant playing centre-back who knows? Personally I’m enjoying playing left-back at the moment and I’m having some relative success there.”
Q: So, going back to Sunday, there’s no added motivation with it being Southampton?
“Not really, no. Honestly, no. They made the decision at the time and that was the right decision for them at the time.
“Personally I’d like to think I did prove that person wrong, because the players that were selected are no longer in the professional game. That’s up to him to decide whether he made a mistake or not.
“My previous history with them doesn’t really bother me. I’m more keen to play just to test myself against Premier League opposition.”