Dean Smith believes it was entirely in keeping with Tyrone Mings’ character that the Aston Villa defender spoke up to officials after being the subject of racial abuse on England duty.
Mings was targeted by sections of the Bulgarian support in the early stages of his England debut in Sofia, with television cameras showing the centre-half turning to ask the assistant referee if he had heard the abuse.
That would lead to the first of two breaks in play as England’s 6-0 victory in the Euro 2020 qualifier was overshadowed by the abhorrent behaviour of some home fans.
Smith, though, expressed pride in Mings’ performance as well as how he conducted himself in the face of discrimination.
The Aston Villa head coach said: “The fact that he’s come back here, trained and got on with things as normal, not really said too much about it, I can only sing his praises.
“When we go and look at players and speak to them, we know what they’re going to bring football-wise but it’s that personality, character that you’re looking to talk and find out about.
“Having met him and brought him to Aston Villa on-loan and then we’ve signed him and seen him every day, it didn’t surprise me how he handled the whole situation because he’s articulate, he’s intelligent and he’s a very good human being.
“I thought it was a really assured performance and the biggest accolade I could give him is he looked like he was playing for Aston Villa. I’m extremely proud to see one of my players go and make his debut for England.
“He was organising people around him, looked very good and calm on the ball, it was the sort of performance we’ve seen quite regularly.
“He probably didn’t get tested an awful lot defensively and played his part in a really good result for England.”
In the aftermath of what happened in the Bulgarian capital on Monday night, there was some speculation as to whether England could have walked off the field in protest.
Smith, though, said: “In my opinion, I didn’t think it was the right thing to walk off but if one player thinks it’s right to walk off then I think you all have to stay together.
“If they all walk off that pitch then Tyrone loses his debut and the people who have scored lose their goals and then who’s the winner in all of that? We do obviously believe that there’s got to be a stance made.
“Tyrone made it known to the official that he was being abused. I think the next step forward is the people who are getting abused, it shouldn’t be them who are making it known.
“It should be people around who aren’t getting abused who make it known to the authorities or even delegates who are there, they are the ones who step forward. For me, that’s a step in the right direction of dealing with this.”
Smith confirmed Mings is raring to go on his return to club action as Villa welcome Brighton in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon, with midfielder Jota the only absentee after undergoing a hernia operation last Friday.
As for whether Mings could establish himself as a regular for England, Smith added: “That decision is down to (manager) Gareth Southgate.
“All I can say is that I don’t see many left-footed defenders who are as good as Tyrone at the moment and obviously Gareth saw it that way as well for the game.”
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