EFL Reporter @simgholam
Tammy Abraham and Tyrone Mings: Aston Villa spirit, John Terry influence and play-off final
Watch the Sky Bet Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Derby live on Sky Sports Football from 2pm on Monday; Kick-off at 3pm
Last Updated: 27/05/19 8:42am
Even as Tammy Abraham and Tyrone Mings gently poke fun at each other, you can still see the admiration between a pair of players who have made all the difference at the front and back for Aston Villa this season.
Abraham, on loan from Chelsea, has scored 26 goals in 39 appearances since arriving last August. Mings, who joined from Bournemouth in January, has been a rock in defence as Villa charged into the play-offs in the second half of the season.
It is hard to imagine that they would be playing in the Sky Bet Championship play-off final at Wembley on Monday without the pair. Especially with Abraham scoring the winning penalty in the semi-final shoot-out against West Brom.
"This guy stepped up with all the pressure on him and sent us to Wembley, so full credit to him for that because I was nowhere to be seen!" Mings joked, as both men sat down with Sky Sports ahead of their showdown with Derby.
It is not just the penalty that left an impression on Mings. It is Abraham's all-round game that has proved so important for Villa.
"He has everything and he is very difficult to play against," the defender continued. "He is a big lad but he has such good feet for his size, and his goal record speaks for itself.
"He scores so many different types of goals. You know if he gets a chance that he'll put it away more often than not."
For Abraham, even as he jokes about the fact his team-mate may be more famous for taking his shirt off on Instagram than he is for his defensive ability, the respect is mutual.
"Would I want to play against him? No, he's a beast," the striker said. "He is fast, strong and very good technically. He reads the game very well and is one of the best defenders I have played with.
"It is something we needed and in January he came in and lifted the team. I never fear anything at the back now, and I'm relaxed when he's on the ball because I know he'll find the right pass."
The pair have also helped lift a dressing room that suffered heartbreak in last year's play-off final. Dean Smith has refreshed the club since his arrival and only three or four members of the side that lost to Fulham at Wembley are likely to start again.
"I don't think if you came into the dressing room now that you'd know any of the lads were involved in such a disappointing day last year," Mings said. "It's such a good mixture of people who were and weren't there and it gives us a refreshed outlook on this year's final.
"If some players are still feeling the heartache from last year, then hopefully we can help them channel that into writing a new script on Monday.
"Throughout my loan spell we have always found ways to win, and hopefully that will stand us in good stead. Against Rotherham I was sent off and we played 60 minutes with 10 men, but we managed to come from behind.
"The West Brom [semi-final] was another one where we had to find another way. We weren't able to break down a very experienced and well-coached team, so we got the job done on penalties.
Abraham agrees, adding: "We never know when we're out and we keep fighting until the last minute. We have a great team. Jack [Grealish] is a great leader, Tyrone at the back.
"We steer each other on and keep going, finding the extra energy to push ourselves."
Naturally, with one defender and one Chelsea loanee sat together, the discussion soon turns to John Terry. There is no doubt that the Villa coach and former England captain has had a massive influence on both men.
Abraham credits him as something of a mentor, and admits he was one of the reasons he joined Villa at the start of the season.
"He was on the phone to me every day as soon as he heard the link," the striker said. "He told me it was such a good club and I would love it here, and he was right.
"Even though he doesn't play my position he has always supported me and he has been a massive role model for me."
For Mings, it has been invaluable to have one of the best defenders this country has ever produced in his corner.
"I'm always learning from him," he said. "He is a defender who a lot of people would have in their all-time Premier League XI, so the opportunity to work with him was a huge factor in me coming here.
"After every game we sit down and watch clips of my performance, assessing what I did well and what I can improve. The best defenders are the ones you don't always notice, keeping clean sheets and trying to remain under the radar, letting the strikers get all the adulation!
"He has been a huge help for me."
Chelsea's academy will play a big role in Monday's final. Abraham will line up against friends and team-mates in Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori, both of whom have spent the season on loan from Stamford Bridge at Pride Park.
The Chelsea loanees' Whatsapp group has become an infamous part of football folklore recently, but Abraham says there has been no contact between them all as they prepare for the final.
"I've just kept my distance," he said. "We know it's a massive game for both teams and for me it's about focusing on Aston Villa. They have had fantastic seasons at Derby but hopefully I can have the last laugh."
Villa are the favourites, and they beat Derby 4-0 as recently as March. Mings, however, knows underestimating them would be a dangerous game to play.
"They are full of talent and you can't get to this stage of the season if you're not a good team," he said. "They have a lot of spirit and you have to be a threat to score four goals at Elland Road.
"They have a manager who is a winner and players in the dressing room who have won stuff before, but we feel we are in a good position to counter anything they can throw at us. It will be a great game of football for the neutral. But hopefully one we will deal with."
All the ways to watch the play-off finals...
All three play-off finals will be live on Sky Sports Football.
Sky Sports subscribers can also stream games via the Sky Sports app or the Sky Go app.
- Watch on Sky Sports
- Create a Sky iD to watch highlights on the Sky Sports app and skysports.com
- Watch on NOW TV for £8.99
Non-subscribers can watch through NOW TV. A Sky Sports day pass is available for £8.99, a week pass for £14.99 or a month pass for £33.99. NOW TV can be streamed through a computer or apps.
If you can't watch live then you can also follow the action with our live blogs on www.skysports.com and the Sky Sports app, with in-game clips and highlights throughout the match.