One of the oddest phenomenons about the ‘first England call-up’? The fact that most players believe it to be a wind-up. Why are they getting called up to the Three Lions squad? It’s got to be a joke. It’s almost never a gaffe, though.
For this reason, England - or the FA - should consider the manner of their approach. If talented players assume it’s a joke all the time, something is going wrong.
Tyrone Mings was the latest call-up to become mystified. It took a return call from the liaison officer in the England camp to convince him of the reality of his call-up. Tyrone is no joke, and neither is his selection in the England team.
In fact, it’s a damned shame that he thought that his selection was a joke being played upon him in the first place. Mings deserves his place in the England team - and all of us feel his jubilation.
While Villa have been away from the international scene for quite some time (apart from the influence of Birkir Bjarnason, Ahmed Elmohamady and Jonathan Kodjia, amongst a few others), their pedigree at international level hasn’t disappeared.
In ‘74, Villa were founded. Eight years later, in 1882, Aston-born Howard Vaughton and Birmingham boy Arthur Brown became the first two Villa men to trade out the Scottish-inspired Lion Rampant of Villa for the Three Lions of England when they joined the national side to help crush Ireland in a 13-0 victory. Since then, seventy-two others have represented England.
The current England manager - Gareth Southgate - holds the distinction of being Aston Villa’s most-capped English international. Gareth Barry was at the centre of a national debate about the absence of a talented left-footed player in the 00s England team. Ashley Young, Stewart Downing and James Milner have experienced varying degrees of success, while Fabian Delph is still in the picture. Darren Bent showed up, as did Gabby Agbonlahor - and England stalwart Emile Heskey made a late return to the Three Lions during his time at Aston Villa. David Platt, Peter Withe, Tony Morley, Tony Daley, Dion Dublin are just a few more names, as well as Paul Merson, Stan Collymore and the late Ugo Ehiogu who also turned out for England.
Ehiogu was the last centre-back to be called up from the AVFC team to serve for England. Before that? Southgate; the man who has selected Tyrone Mings for international duty. With a cap, Tyrone Mings will become the 74th Villan to surrender his spare time to international duty, while Tom Heaton - an experienced international - may become the 75th.
An international call-up is a true honour, especially for a side that has become stacked with talent and options across the board. Mings beat out Jack O’Connell, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee and a host of others to claim a spot with England. In it’s own right, that’s impressive - but Mings isn’t around to make up the numbers. There’s plenty he can add to the international team.
As a left-footed player, Mings fills the criteria for a left-sided centre back. He’s got natural ball-playing ability and the skills he has inherited from his time as a left-back will be extremely handy in a team that spreads wide and plays the ball from deep. A gifted passer, Mings certainly fits in. He’s got strength and leadership attributes and most importantly, is the right type of character to appear for an England international team that is finally accepting it’s status as an influence upon the country’s youth. England players in 2019 must be role models - and Mings is nothing less than the best that one could wish for.
Mings’ best attribute isn’t what he can do with the ball, but what he can do without it. He has the awareness in defence to recognise his shape in relation to the goal and can cut down shooting opportunities with positioning alone. He is able to shorten the length of the pitch and force strikers into taking weak chances. This is an incredible talent.
It’s not all Tyrone though - Tom Heaton has been an England international for close to five years, and will continue to fulfil his role as a safeguard at the back should be called upon. On another note, Jack Grealish’s time will come - and there is room for him in this England team. That has never been in doubt, and when his international cap arrives, it will be the long-awaited answer to his biggest critics. He chose England over Ireland and it paid off - even when it looked like it wouldn’t. Through Grealish, and the players that will look to Grealish as an example, Villa have a bright future.
Despite Aston Villa’s huge Scottish influence, they have been an incredibly important part of the English national team’s DNA throughout history. History never stops - and Villa will continue to add to their strong domestic lineage. Mings - a giant in his own right - now stands alongside a number of Villa legends who have earned the right to represent their nation. Long may it continue.