There’s so much more to Tyrone Mings than just being an Aston Villa and England defender. (we say just like it's no big thing!) No, on top of that he’s a shrewd business man, with one eye fixed firmly on the future. But right now, it’s all about the game, and enjoying his meteoric rise, as we found out in our latest print publication, SoccerBible Volumes SU21 – Utopia edition.

Tyrone Mings is a special player with a strong mind, taking his place amongst the elite and the International scene, becoming a leader for so many looking on. He has been through every experience of football, learning along the way, and his words are some of the most eloquent though still so utterly real. He is astute and adept, and his headspace is something we must celebrate.

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To start with: what a ride! I hope people tell you how inspirational your whole journey is. It could easily be a movie. Have you ever thought about writing memoirs?

You know what, I have. A lot of books that I read, about the most successful people or writers for example, talk about how they write something everyday about life. I guess I have only started doing that recently. I have always thought about a film because everybody loves a wreck to riches story. Something where you overcome adversity and then become successful. But the only people that would probably watch it, or care about it, would be my friends and family.

When you look at where I come from, other cultures, players that have come from far worse situations and go on to achieve even better things than I have. There are some really great stories and I think the beauty about everyone's journey is that it is special to them. It's special to my friends and family. Whilst it can be inspirational to others, at the same time I think everything is quite personal to me. My friends and family will probably be the people who care about something like that.

I would argue the other. Especially for the next generation – trusting your talent and grafting – it’s a story to be shared. You’d need someone who can really capture a raw England to paint the picture. Have you seen any of the Small Axe films?

No I haven't actually. But I did try and get hold of Steve McQueen because I am doing something with Sky about taking the knee. I thought for the visual content he would be a perfect person.

They show England in a very real way. I think the representation of stories like yours would be a great thing. While yes, someone like Sadio Mane, as an example, has scaled ridiculous levels to get to where he has, it's all relative. A movie of your life would be powerful. At least some memoirs if not…

Over here, culturally it would be a bit more relatable. Everyone would be able to start in an environment, household or economic background. A lot of people would probably be able to relate to it. Again even in the football world there's quite a few other players who need a movie about them way before me aren't there…

Before you got into an academy, or the football pathway, what was the very earliest memory of football for you?

Probably my mum taking me to training. It was probably around one or two miles away from our house. My mum didn't have a car so I used to walk down. I was four I think and I went into the under 7’s. That was the youngest age group that they did. My mum had to beg them to allow me to train. They were saying “No he's too young,” but then they eventually accepted me and that was my local club. It was just fun, like summer tournaments. They were just the best part of being a young kid. Enjoying it, playing with your friends and people that you're going to school with. That was how you chose a grass roots club, you based it on who your friends played for. They were great memories but it's only when you go to the academy the fun gets sucked out of it.

Where was that first club?

It was in Chippenham. I played for FC Chippenham. The difference between grassroots football and academy football is the fun side. As soon as you get into an academy people think “He must be better than the people at the local club. So he's got a better chance of being a professional footballer.” But you see the success rate of how many people have a career and you are in an academy of 80. There is a lot of unnecessary pressure put on you when you are in an academy. From parents and coaches. A big level of expectation.

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What about summer tournaments? What were they like for you playing in kids summer tournaments and watching England? Do you remember playing long nights until it got dark?

I love all of it. Football, for any football player, starts off as a hobby doesn't it? There are millions of kids, up and down the country, but everybody just loves football. Nobody is thinking about a career in the game when you start off, because everybody just loves playing the game. It's the most played sport and is so social.

Playing in the summer tournaments is just a great day. You are there with your friends, summer evenings and if you get to the final it is such a great experience. I don't think I actually won a tournament but they were great fun. The goals are smaller, the pitch is smaller, the team sizes are smaller and it's just a great day. With England tournaments I loved it. Everybody would run around the playground pretending to be an England player from Beckham to Rooney or Owen. I think every kid starts off as an England fan as well.

Did you get caught up in England hype and excitement back then?

My dad is obviously a big football fan as well, so when it got to tournaments we would always go off to watch it somewhere, whether it be a local football club, a bar, a local social club, it could be just a pub in general. Every year is full of expectation isn't it? Before an England tournament there is hope and some years we have done better than others.

I remember being at school, in sixth form, we were watching in the Brazil World Cup in 2014. No it would have been 2010 in South Africa with the Vuvuzela's – that was amazing, all of us watching the World Cup and life just peaked. You were around your friends, what could possibly be even better? Fast forward to 2018, especially with everything that was going on in the world, some would say that was one of the greatest times to be an England fan in recent years. Going so far, in the World Cup, everything was just coming together. But unfortunately we didn't get over the line.

What's it like when you go into football from having those amazing memories as a kid? From being in the classroom, to watching it with your mates, then all of a sudden you know the people that you are playing with on the pitch. Looking ahead you are now one of them...

It is strange. I think the only thing that I would say is because it took me so long, from being in school to get into the England set up, a lot of my idols from back in the day like Gerard, Ferdinand and Terry were not in the squad. If I was ever managed by Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard – Gerrard was my favourite football player ever – I would probably be starstruck for quite a long time. Because I left school in 2011, then I made my England debut in 2019, in that period there was a new era of players. I still watched that group on TV that I obviously knew and would play against when I was in the Championship. I still watch England games, Premier League games, but to get into the setup as an England player is amazing. It comes with a lot of responsibility as well, not just on the pitch but off the pitch. That is what you want to do to be at the top of your game. It is great to be in.

Pints flown in 2018, to now have the ability to create a moment. No pressure, but you can give people so much happiness. It doesn't just happen like a switch but it is such an amazing position to be in, isn't it?

Yeah definitely. especially coming off the back of Covid with the 12 to 15 months that we have had. With fans coming back into the stadiums, or if they are not come the tournament in the summer, it would just be an amazing thing to look forward to. Hopefully we can socialise and can get together to watch. Hopefully the England game can do something to put a smile on millions over the course of the summer. To be a part of it and to possibly be given the opportunity to go into the tournament with England is something you have to sit back and take stock of. I'm enjoying it.

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What an achievement that would be. Nothing has been linear on your journey. What would you say are the moments, in that time, that have really shaped you?

Definitely my injuries. My knee injury was on my Bournemouth debut. I felt all my dreams coming crashing down and it was back to square one. Because Bournemouth was new into the Premier League, it was their first season and it was my first season. If they get relegated that could be my Premier League career done. So that taught me not to necessarily focus on the things that I cannot control. It was such a mentally unstable time that you can get caught up in all of the things you can't control. Things like results, being angry at the person who injured me and the fact that I have been injured. It takes away your energy from what you need to do, which is getting fit again and getting my knee right. That was a big thing for me.

My trial at Ipswich was a huge moment because anything could have happened. I do believe in being in the right place at the right time. I think if I had gone to that trial with 99 percent of managers in professional football, I wouldn't think I would get a contract. But because it was Mick McCarthy and he liked my characteristics, yes he liked the fact that I was a left-sided centre-back at the time, but he liked my no nonsense characteristics and attitude coming into a game. Not all managers look for things like that. I think they were at the bottom of the Championship when he took over, were seven points adrift and three weeks later I went on trial.

Not all managers are looking to give a kid a chance at a non league team. I went straight into the first team squad. One Saturday I was at Chippenham and the following I was at Elland Road with Ipswich – it was that quick. It was a huge moment, as was my England debut. Because of what happened on the pitch, with the racial abuse and stuff like that, we came away from that and I certainly came away from that with all of the fallout from it. The English FA, Bulgarian FA, fans from other clubs and it really made me aware of the gravity of expectation of playing for the England shirt.

That has stuck with me because you are never really just an Aston Villa defender anymore. It's always Aston Villa and England defender or England defender. It made me aware of the responsibility so maybe that's why I'm outspoken on difficult topics. I think being in that position, I may only be in a position for a short while, when you retire unfortunately your opinion holds far less weight then if you are a current player. So we only have a short amount of time to impact change. My England debut made me aware of how much we can implement things and it's a level of responsibility that I like to owe.

It's incredible even that words like “outspoken” are used. It's amazing that you are using your voice and speaking. It shouldn't be outspoken…

There are people that speak a lot more passionately and frequently about it than myself but don't have the platform. There are some really good campaigns, really good activists, there are a lot of people trying to implement change. They don't quite have the platform that I do. So it's about trying to amplify the messages of thousands of others.

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Plenty has been made about your mortgage advising days but set the scene: what did that job actually look like? What was Tyrone Mings like in an office environment?

I got recruited from a talent-pool. They employ about 20 people at the same time every three-months into the academy. It was on Lower Bristol Road in Bath. It was next to a petrol station in a big old building. When I went for the job I did not actually know what a mortgage was. So the first week was a crash course in mortgage advising and the first thing was what is a mortgage? I was thinking I don't even know this.

People came from all different walks of life. Some people were 35 or 40 that had been in finance but now wanted to be a mortgage advisor. Some people were like me, straight up out of school and wanted to work as a mortgage advisor as well. Trying to bridge that gap of what they knew and what I knew was tough. I had to study for an exam to even get onto the course, which you had to pass and I was fine.

With the actual job I went into the Academy with 20 other people, then they based on three to five people will hit a regular target in three months and be able to graduate out of the academy, which I actually did. I started just before my birthday in March and then signed for Ipswich in November or December. So I did it for about a year and loved it. I thought it was going to be my career and to go into other areas of finance. But I still keep in contact with a few of them. It was a long time ago but it was a career path I've fully thrown myself into.

What about surroundings and family? What instilled the values that you have? Not every footballer will talk in the way that you do or have the scope of mind that you do. Where does that come from?

I think from seeing both sides of the coin. There are so many different walks of life. I've been in football and I've been out of it. I've been to a state school and I went to a boarding school. So collecting all of that information. Being able to work from home, which was a different skill set from working on the phones as a mortgage advisor. Like I said, I didn't know what a mortgage was, I didn't have a mortgage, but I was entrusted to advise other people on a process that I had never been through. That required a little bit of bluffing on the phones and being able to sound more qualified or older than I was. So the people that were speaking to me were validated by the fact I knew what I was talking about.

I think I have seen a lot, experienced a lot, know how to speak to and empathize with a lot of people, because more often than not I have been in their shoes. My upbringing wasn't great, a lot of people had it worse than me, mine wasn't ideal. But what it did was build a very close-knit family around me, which is something I haven't lost. If you carry those values, family values and what is really important in life it really helps to keep you grounded.

Going back to the injury I think I was able to have a little bit of a refresh. Because going from Ipswich to Bournemouth I earned a hell of a lot more money. I can buy this and this or a car. It was only when I got injured that you realise all of those things don't really matter. It was about who was around me at the time and taking stock of what was really important.

So many monumental achievements along the way but also so many hurdles. When you get rejected, say from Southampton and dealing with that kind of rejection, what kept you from falling away from football completely? Not being bitter?

I did go for a hell of a lot of trials around the area that I was from. I went to Bristol Rovers, I went to Bristol City, Swindon, Chelsea, Eastleigh, Hereford and it was no after no for whatever reason. Don't get me wrong, I signed for Ipswich when I was nearly 20. The summer before that, I just signed for Chippenham and I was tempted to give up. If Ipswich had not gone through, or worked out, I may have reassessed what I am doing for the long-term degree.

I think every "no", it didn't necessarily make me more bitter, it made me more determined or hungry. The only problem that I had was that I didn't see a route in to football. I went to Hereford one month before I went to Ipswich. They said they couldn't sign me because they were under a transfer embargo. Then it was only six months later that the club actually folded, which was actually a blessing in disguise.

I never lost the hunger for it because I wanted to be a footballer. But I also knew that in the meantime I had to to earn some money and I had to work, which is how the mortgage advisor role came into it. While I was a mortgage advisor they knew that I still wanted to be a professional footballer. Maybe living with my dad helped because he worked at Chelsea as a scout. He was telling me that some players at Chelsea haven't got much more than what you have got, other than the fact they are at a club, which was strange because I was playing for Chippenham at the time and you would have forgiven him for sounding a little bit fucking stupid. He could see how fine the little differences were and how thousands of kids get released or never get back into football.

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It's such a good message even in that line that your dad said. The thing is that you have had the mental capacity to be able to deal with that however, the amount of kids that are told “no” and perhaps don’t have that headspace is worrying…

It's so difficult for some people because ultimately it's where you take your influences from. I was fortunate enough to not grow up in an environment where people were trying to bring you down or get you involved in criminal activity. I was able to keep quite a clear head because I had good people around me and I had family. I can imagine it's a lot harder for people who don't have that or have people that they are trying to impress that they don't need to impress. I was quite fortunate at the time.

What about when you think about from your days at Chippenham? Do you remember and romanticise about the tiny changing rooms, the clubhouse etc? It's such a different world now. In a way we have to cling onto that pure sense of football…

It’s so much more fun, I'm telling you. So much more fun playing non-league than it is playing in the Premier League. But fun isn't what I was doing it for. I think that is what was the biggest difference between some of the other young lads that I was playing non-league with and some of the senior players that have played professional football. They were doing it for fun and I kind of wasn't. At the same time it was fucking great: travelling to games on a coach, meeting up at different places on the motorway and getting picked up by the coach because they lived closer, coming back, sitting in the clubhouse and having a few beers after. That's the side of it I never understood because I wanted to be a professional. I was old enough to drink but I didn't want to drink because I didn't want to just sit here and then go out in Bristol after. That is what the norm is on Thursday night after training. We would train Tuesday and Thursday nights then after training people would go out.

I loved it and the money is actually quite good for what you are doing full stop because you really enjoy it. I mean I was on £45 per week, then getting a train to Bath and then a lift to Yate three times a week. I'm not sure £45 actually justifies that. But no it was great fun. Sitting in the club house after with your accumulators on. Watching the Premier and Championship games and seeing if they won. I remember playing in the non-league and the Grand National was on. They were playing it over the tannoy because players on the pitch had a bet on the Grand National. People were listening trying to hear what was going on and trying to play football. Imagine that happening at Villa Park!

In some respects it shows football being so serious when you get to the top. It would be amazing if stuff like that was happening at the very top…

It's ridiculous. And that's why I think I can take football for what it is, see some parts of the game for what it is and not take some parts too seriously. Like you said, you have to try and hang on to it in its purest form. Non-league was fucking brilliant.

What’s your take on the hypocrisy in football? Abuse from the stands, the media or onlookers criticising players for not showing character but when they do, they get scrutinised…

It is difficult. You and I can sit around here and have a conversation about players and you can see that they are human beings and normal people. But when you are a football fan, never had that engagement with a player, they are just commodities. He is just a centre back, so everytime the ball comes into the box he should clear it like a robot. Every time he steps onto the pitch he should be at 100 percent physical and mental capacity. To be able to play at his optimum.

Obviously, as humans, you always have that with your job. Sometime you turn up to training and think “I can't be arsed today.” That never changes no matter what job, profession or career you are in. Everybody has good and bad days. The football fans sometimes need to see the human element in a lot of players. Which is why, people like Gary Neville, talking about players controlling their own social media, there has to be a level of authenticity between players and fans when it comes to engagement, so they can see if people have mood swings, people have good and bad days, people suffer with mental health and people suffer with the fact that their careers are really unstable. If they could understand what goes on maybe they would try. Then again you are trying to reason with quite unreasonable people at times. If they want to understand I'm sure they will.

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Away from football you have various businesses or outlets shall we say. What are your passions? How do you express yourself?

I think when I retire I would love to combine football with business. I don't know what role that looks like yet but business has always been something that I am interested in. I'm quite fortunate enough at the moment too to be able to set businesses up in different industries. Not to make money but to learn what those industries look like. Before I had dreadlocks I really wanted some nice caps., because I think with caps these days if you buy an expensive cap it's really cheaply made – it's just got a brand on it and that is why people buy it. So I created some just to learn about the supply and manufacturing chains that come with fashion. I never got around to selling them but that's an ongoing conversation because I can't even try them on anymore!

So setting up businesses in different spaces I set up a football app with different developers in Hungary and Tel Aviv. Learning about outsourcing different technology to different countries, cultures and the problems that come with that. That's in the outing but it is not trying to facilitate any business really, it was just about learning the process. We have interior design, we have the academy and I just enjoy learning. I enjoy reading and I also really enjoy Call of Duty a lot. I play it everyday.

Have you got your design team to build with the ultimate Call of Duty room?

My gaming setup is quite impressive. I have got three screens, a tower, two keyboards, two mice, and a PlayStation controller. The room is just my office but that's because I am renting a house at the moment. There's only certain things I can do to it. When I do buy around here, or move into a different house, I will make sure that the dressing room is one of the first things that gets designed.

I guess that business specifically, interior design and the architecture side of it is a good statement of what you are about. Your mind is creative, artistic and mathematical maybe?

Some of the things I have learnt I have only learned about them because when I retire from football if I think “I want to run a clothing brand” I'm starting from scratch. I've not wasted time but I spent the last 10 or 15 years of my football career with a lot of time to kill and not doing or learning anything. So I will have a basic understanding of these industries before I eventually decide what I want to do.

Interior design business has been A) the only one that has made any money and B) the only one we have ran as a business. For Katie, my business partner, it's her job and it's her career as she always wanted to be an interior designer. Me, on the other hand, knew about buying and selling houses because of my mortgage days. But I didn't know about the interior, architecture side or the planning side of it. I thought that when I came into football the property world looks a lot different and it does at the moment. I thought I want to go into property development in the future. So I thought I needed to learn about the interior and architecture side of it and it seems like a perfect opportunity. She will run the business day to day and I will steer in terms of what we do from a strategic point of view.

That has been a real eye-opener but I've learnt to love it more. I mean the good thing is I would probably never advise Katie on the interior, in the same way that she wouldn't advise me on playing football. That relationship has worked well and it has been the longest and most successful business I have been involved in.

With the clothing brands, in terms of what you look at for inspiration, are there any startups or small brands that you have seen and have a lot of respect for? Would you like to follow that kind of route?

In terms of American companies, Amiri is a premium brand. But I love looking at Amiri’s story and how he still runs it with his wife. Luigi who owns Rhude, his story and the Keaton brothers who represent England, I think is an inspiration all round. But when it came to creating something for myself I always based it on what I would want and what I would buy. Rather than take inspiration from anywhere else I would think “If I'm sitting here I would buy it.” I'm sure there are people in similar positions to me that would think the same, or are thinking “How does this not exist?”

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In terms of reading, where do you look for new things to pick up?

I do like business books, I started off by reading them. Then I read a book by Ben Horowitz it's called “The Hard Thing About Hard Things.” He was a CEO and he ran a company but a lot of the business books these days are people preaching about what you should do in business. But they have never actually walked the walk. They have never actually been a CEO and had to lay people off in the middle of a pandemic. They have never had to sack people or lose all their shares. I guess in a bookshop they would be classed under “Self help.” But that seems a bit morbid doesn't it.

Anything to do with improvement and learning about your mental state; I really like an author called Ryan Holiday, who wrote a book called “Ego Is The Enemy.” I thought this was a bit harsh. I don't have a very big ego. That probably probed with me to read the fucking book. But then reading that unlocked so many things in my mind, about not just what your mind is capable of, but also how much we don't understand thoughts and feelings that we have day to day. I like reading self-help and self improvement books. I'm not really big on old school books, like the books you would have read back in school, Charles Dickens and stuff like that.

I am also really interested in law at the moment. I have a reading list of what prospective law students should read. It gives you a flavour of a law degree before you study it. Charles Dickens' “Bleak House” was actually one of them. I got the book but it is 1000 pages long and thought there is no chance of reading that. It was literally huge. I want to learn more about history and law. So law is what I am reading at the moment.

In terms of what footballers consume, a number of players have cited ‘Black Box Thinking’ as a regular resource. It feels like things are definitely progressing. Does it feel like that for you, culturally and creatively?

I was talking about that book last night actually to someone. I think Matthew Syed has got a book called “Bounce”, but “Black Box Thinking” is a really good book. I think for social media you know how to express yourself more, with the good and the bad of what you do. Obviously it has pitfalls and people miss using it. It's probably a true representation of what players are like, because with the negatives that the press can create and a negative narrative they can create for you, you have the chance to rebalance that with a positive outlook if you use social media correctly.

Certainly from the 90s to the early 2000s, how players are perceived, how changing rooms work, to what they are like now, you can be whoever you want to be in a changing room to a certain extent. You can be as expressive as you like and that is more accepted, which can only be a good thing. Once it's more accepted players will feel more comfortable to come out and speak about those things. If they are going to be heavily scrutinised all the time or fans, managers, are just going to get on their back and shut it down, then of course you are not going to see it. I think how football was back in the day, to how it is now, it's certainly encouraged more to be  well-rounded men or women. It only sets you up to be a better person when you leave football.

From Bellerin, to Tom Davies, to yourself, it's such a good representation to show people that they can have character. To not be afraid to show that personality. Taking that into what you want to do with the PFA and leading in that space, has it reset your aspirations?

Again, it's probably just the element of learning, like the PFA role. I think the PFA is an organisation that has been great for players but it also could have been better. Now is a time when it needs to move into more of a modern space. It needs to be a little bit more forward-thinking rather than reactionary. I want to be a part of that and I'm not afraid to say I want to be a part of that for reasons like I have touched on. Because I want to step into a business or executive role, when I finish playing football, I need to understand what the processes are like. I need to know what the PFA’s processes and what the FA’s are like. What it is like upscaling something to UEFA. The problems that you face and the red tape you face trying to get something done at that level. Already having conversations with government officials, social media companies and stuff like that.

Everything is culminating towards me knowing more about the football space and more about the administration in football, which hopefully will serve me better when I retire.

In a post covid world football is at a bit of a ground zero. It's an opportunity to rethink what is good, what is bad and how it can move into a more contemporary space when it comes to the PFA. How would you like the future football to look? What are the key things that you would like to address?

On the pitch I actually think football is moving in the right direction. The emergence of good young players, which is right throughout Europe. Players can go abroad and flourish, which is something that would never happen or be as actively encouraged before. That is just one route to success, and I think people are seeing that more. The more that is encouraged to players coming through, that you can go to school, you can leave and be successful, have a slightly delayed route and go to Europe, the better. Or you can find a manager that likes you at the right time, like Phil Foden and Pep Guardiola and flourish in that way.

Off the pitch I would love social media to be a much safer place, to have certain laws and protocols in place to protect young players. I say young players and footballers because we are a micro segment of society. We are a representation, so if it is happening to me, it is happening to thousands of kids that don't have my platform to report it. I think we as players control an effect and that's one thing I would love to see happen in football. It's more of a society issue.

Stepping out at Villa Park must be an incredible thing. But stepping into an England dressing room and seeing your name on the back of a shirt, what goes through your head? That must be an explosion of all sorts of emotions given everything that you have been through.

It was brilliant. The fact that I knew a couple of days before I was going to start in Bulgaria was, I don't know if it's better or worse because I couldn't sleep for two days, but my family were able to get a flight out to Bulgaria and be there for it.

Just going back to Villa Park it is certainly the best Stadium that I have played in. We play in great stadiums in the Premier League all the time, but there is something about Villa park. I think it is the traditions and the old school style stadium that I like. A lot of players in the England dressing room talk about how much they love playing there as well. I don't know if it's because they always win when they come down, or whether they enjoy the stadium?! But Going from England dressing room to Villa dressing room they are both great.

You can't really describe the moment you walk into an England dressing room knowing that you are going to start and your shirt is lined up alongside 10 other phenomenal players. Knowing you're going to go out, sing the national anthem and represent your country for the first time. It feels great every time but for the first time like you said, “It's an explosion of emotions.” Then you get home and it feels like “Fucking hell now what?”

That's one thing I always wonder. You can't just go home and sit in your living room, right?

You can!

The adrenaline must be insane after any game?

Night games it's just curtains after trying to sleep after a night game. If you kick off at 8pm there's also the adrenaline and the amount of caffeine that players take before a game. You'll be drinking coffee with pre pre-match and then I have a shot of caffeine. Which I'm sure is a ridiculous amount of caffeine and then caffeine to take downside to the pitch. Then an energy gel before the game starts. 8:45pm comes and you have another two caffeine gums....

A house party on the pitch…

This is nearly 9pm. So imagine the game finishes, you get home by 11:30pm and there's no way that has worn off. You are talking two or three in the morning. So sometimes you have to have a glass of wine. With the adrenaline there is no way you're getting to sleep after a night game. Even a 3pm kick off is bad enough.

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