Sofia, October 16: England manager Gareth Southgate praised the leadership qualities shown by defender Tyrone Mings after a challenging international debut against Bulgaria on Monday.
England bounced back from defeat in the Czech Republic with a 6-0 rout of Bulgaria in Sofia, but the Euro 2020 qualifier was marred by racist behaviour from home fans in the partially-closed stadium.
Mings was at the forefront of the unsavoury scenes having noticed racist chants by Bulgarian fans, before beginning the process which led to the implementation of UEFA's three-step protocol for racist abuse.
UEFA has since opened disciplinary proceedings against Bulgaria for the scenes at the Vasil Levski National Stadium with four charges laid out by European football's governing body.
I’ll always remember my debut as a moment where our country stood firm, stood tall and stood proud in the fight against discrimination.... Oh and the football wasn’t too bad either pic.twitter.com/E0DDq6hY7L— Tyrone Mings (@OfficialTM_3) October 15, 2019
But despite the difficult circumstances which Mings made his debut in, Southgate was full of praise for the maturity shown by the Aston Villa centre-back.
"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 and I saw that [against Bulgaria]," Southgate told reporters.
"We presented him with his shirt 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 the academy system.
"That worldly wideness, if you like, showed. An incredibly mature performance and you could hear his communication on the pitch I'm sure from where you were sat.
"I said to him the level of opponent often isn't the issue when playing for England. It's being able to handle wearing the England shirt. I didn't think he would have to go through everything tonight that he did, but he's an impressive young man and I couldn't be happier for him.
England finish their qualifying campaign for Euro 2020 with a doubleheader against Group A opponents Montenegro and Kosovo in November.