Genius decision: Winning John Terry-inspired transfer race ensured Villa’s promotion – opinion

Back at the beginning of March, Aston Villa were in 13th place. They also had one of the worst defensive records in the league as they sat a remarkable 22 points off Leeds at the top of the table.

It seems unbelievable, therefore, that Villa were the ones who ended up getting promoted.

Before Dean Smith arrived last October the club were outside the play-offs and had a tremendous amount of work to do.

However, it wasn’t until after New Year that things began to change. Specifically, it was on transfer deadline day that the entire course of their season would switch paths.

On 31 January, Tyrone Mings walked through the doors on a loan deal from Bournemouth.

The powerful defender had rarely played for the Cherries before arriving but the Villans were able to fight off a number of clubs in the process.

Per Sky Sports, West Brom were interested in him back in January whilst according to The Daily Mail (23/01, page 65), Leeds were also in the running. Had he gone to either of Villa’s eventual play-off rivals, their campaign could have been drastically different.

But what was the sticking point for Mings? According to the centre-half, it was John Terry.

The former Chelsea man earned his keep as one of the most bullish central defenders in Premier League history, winning multiple honours and England caps along the way.

After hanging up his boots towards the beginning of 2018/19, he arrived as Smith’s assistant when the ex-Bees man was appointed manager at Villa Park.

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His arrival is another catalyst for change. Villa’s defence was still poor during the back half of 2018 but the relationship Terry would establish alongside Mings was vital.

The latter cited him as the reason for joining the club, claiming in a recent interview with The Guardian that he couldn’t turn down the opportunity to learn from Terry.

Smith’s appointment was massive, but in terms of sorting out the defensive side of the game, Terry’s was just as important.

Had he not joined, Mings may well have found himself playing for a different Championship club.

Villa’s business this season was particularly good but the fact a number of them were loans could be a cause for concern going forward.

However, that is a debate for another time. For the moment, the focus is on the here and now. The 26-year-old was a colossus after making his loan switch and without him, there is a case to be made that Villa wouldn’t be back in the Premier League.

His influence was monumental as he played a key part in the club’s ten game winning run towards the back end of the season. Only three months ago achieving promotion would have been beyond Villa’s wildest dreams.

To eventually prevail at Wembley, therefore, was the icing on top of the cake.

Mings McGinn - Genius decision: Winning John Terry-inspired transfer race ensured Villa's promotion - opinion

Although Mings was phenomenal on the pitch, the work being done behind the scenes was also particularly important.

Terry’s work on the training pitch and in terms of video analytics further played its part.

Revealing to The Guardian, the Bournemouth loanee said: “His overriding comments to me are: ‘Go through the game without being seen.’ He tells me that a lot. And those little bits of information are obviously great. As much as you want to improve or help the team, as a centre-back your job is to go under the radar and keep the ball out of the net.”

And keeping the ball out of the net was something he did six times during his 18 appearances. It’s not a ground-breaking number of clean sheets but it certainly played its part in the incredible turnaround Villa witnessed.

There were a number of key factors in Villa’s promotion. Simply hiring Smith was a masterstroke, but as far as performers on the pitch go, Mings was one of their star men.

At one point in the season, the Midlands club had the third worst defensive record in the league. To turn that around is quite something.

The priority now will be to bring him back next season. If they manage to do that it will be a major boost ahead of a first season back in the top-flight.

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