Gareth Southgate praised the “outstanding leadership” of Tyrone Mings in what must have been one of the most challenging debuts possible, amid the racist abuse of the 6-0 win over Bulgaria.
It was the Aston Villa centre-half who first noticed the chants and made teammates aware, ultimately seeing Uefa’s three-step protocol to deal with racist abuse enacted for the first time.
Mings displayed remarkable presence of mind on what was a first international appearance, to go with an impressive performance, as he came to personify the character of the England players on the night.We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.
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Southgate was not surprised by any of this.
“To me, since I have been watching him for the past 12 months or so, he’s displayed outstanding leadership qualities throughout that time. I thought I would see that tonight and I saw that tonight. He’s an impressive young man.leftCreated with Sketch. rightCreated with Sketch.
I think his life experience and his different journey to becoming an England player [has been different] - we presented him with his shirt this morning and the point I made was that everybody's journey to becoming an England international is different, but his is very different to most of the boys who have just been in an academy system. And that worldly wiseness, if you like, showed tonight. Incredibly mature performance, you could hear his communication on the pitch I’m sure from where you were sat.
“And I said to him last night [the eve of the game], the level of opponent often isn’t the issue with playing for England. It’s being able to handle wearing an England shirt. I didn’t think he would have to go through everything tonight that he did, but he’s a very impressive young man and, even after the game, he’s spoken brilliantly as well. So, I couldn’t be happier with him or for him.”
It was Southgate himself who presented Mings with the jersey, joking that it was quite a drop-off from Trent Alexander-Arnold, who had Prince William.
The England manager however generally praised the resilience of his players.
“The way they dealt with everything because a lot of our young players haven’t experienced, from Friday night, the fallout of a difficult, poor England performance which is unique, compared to the clubs. So, managing the group through that; their response to that was excellent. Their focus and preparation for the game was excellent.
Then, tonight [there was] something completely different for them all to deal with but we knew tonight was enough experience for a multitude of reasons. So, again, the response, their focus, the way that they played throughout the stoppages in the game and back into it was remarkable. So, bizarrely, I think they’ve actually gained strength from the experience.
“They shouldn’t have had to go through that. But I think in terms of the way they dealt with it, I don’t think they could have done it in a more impressive manner.”