Tyrone Mings feels England need to be better versed in the “dark arts” if they are to go deep into the tournament this summer. The 28-year-old Aston Villa defender relishes in a no-nonsense reputation which belongs to a more old-fashioned version of the game.
But even with VAR, he insists there are modern ways to get the upper hand in games by bending the games which England’s rivals are more than happy to use against us.
“Being streetwise is a huge part of the game,” he said. “You look at other nations and they are masters at the dark arts – staying on the floor for longer than needed, delaying restarts.”
Manager Gareth Southgate has already called for discipline from his players to avoid dangerous free-kicks and unsettling suspensions.
But Mings explained that a few subtle acts are not just about giving your own team an advantage, but upsetting your opponents by what can be critical degrees.
“Being streetwise is also sometimes what gets you over the edge because it winds up the opposition and breaks up their flow and their rhythm,” he said.
It was hard to know whether to be appalled by the lack of integrity or impressed by the win-at-all-costs attitude. As far as Mings is concerned, the important thing is for the striker be just a little bit afraid next time.
One brave journalist had had the temerity to ask him about the elbowing of Sasa Kalajdzic in the early moments of the final friendly against Romania at the Riverside – a clash which escaped the attention of the referee but was picked up by TV replays.
“If it had been in the Euros there would have have been VAR and it would have been red,” the reporter persisted.
“Yeah but it wasn’t, wasn’t it,” Mings replied with a pointed glare. “So we can go back through many different occasions in my career and you could say if there was VAR in that game, I would have got sent off.
“But was I lucky, no, because I knew there wasn’t VAR. Like you say, if there had have been VAR, absolutely I would have given away a penalty.
“As a defender, I have done that many times in my career. When a cross is about to come in, block the striker. That is not against the rules. But that one there was probably too aggressive.
“Absolutely if you give better teams those sort of chances, we would be punished, and perhaps wouldn’t have as many chances going forward to go and score more goals,” he admitted.
“We’re aware we have to be better, and limit the amount of chances we concede, because world-class players will definitely take them.
“There are so many challenges at this stage of the year, but I think we have been fluid and dynamic enough to overcome them so far.
“It doesn’t seem like we’ve had players missing, we’ve obviously had an extended group training, and training’s been good, the intensity has been high.
“Now you get to four, five days before the tournament starts and everybody is quite rightly ready to go.”