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Player Profile: Tyrone Mears

The 35 year old fullback has been the most surprising contribution of 2018. Who is he? What does he bring to the squad?

MLS: Chicago Fire at Minnesota United FC Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Who is Tyrone Mears?

From Manchester City to Preston North End, to West Ham and Derby County, then Marseille, Burnley and Bolton; Tyrone Mears has been a journeyman. The 35 year old was born in Stockport, England to Jamaican and English parents. The fullback came up through the youth ranks at Manchester City, who, at the time, were a relatively low-ranking club. They were relegated from the Premier League in 2001 and reclaimed promotion in 2002. At the age of 19, Mears made his professional debut for the club, coming on as a substitute in the 84th minute against Nottingham Forest. That game turned out to be his only appearance for the club, as he was sold at the end of the season to Preston North End. From 2002 to 2006, Mears made 70 appearances for Preston and this was the real beginning of his story. Throughout his four year career there, Mears was sidelined every season from some sort of injury. Seventy appearances throughout a four year journey seems fairly minimal, but after being sidelined constantly, it was difficult to regain full fitness as well as a first-team starting role. After his four years at Preston, the team accepted a bid from West Ham United for around 1 million Euros, but the price eventually rose based upon performance to 1.9 million.

Preston North End v Leeds United Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Mears’s career with West Ham was not a long one; after a mere 6 appearances in all competitions, he was loaned out to Derby County. Mears did feature in European competition for the club though, facing off against former Italian powerhouse: Palermo. His loan to Derby County led to the most successful season of his career as a professional footballer. His loan came halfway through the season during the January transfer window where he was reunited with former Preston North End coach, Billy Davies. Mears made 17 appearances during his loan, while helping the Championship club reach promotion to the Premier League. His excellent form led Derby to make the loan-agreement a permanent deal. He signed a three year contract with the club in the summer of 2007, with him being regarded as one of the first “attacking fullbacks” of the Premier League. His start to the 2007/08 season in the Premier League was a bit shaky, and it led to him losing a starting role. To make matters more difficult, he suffered a stress fracture in his leg during a match in January. The fullback was sidelined for three months, and by the time he was back to being fit, his club was at the bottom of the table and was inevitably relegated.

A controversial sequence of events

In the summer of 2008, when Mears subsequently went on trial with Marseille of the Ligue one in France without the manager or team’s permission. The club went on to announce that he would never wear the Derby County crest again. The club did allow an agreement with Marseille for a loan-to-purchase option for the 2008/09 season. Mears didn’t debut for the club until January of 2009, and only gained a starting role due to an injury. The fullback was most remembered by the supporters of the club after he scored a game winning goal in the twentieth minute of extra time against Dutch side Ajax in the UEFA Cup. The goal sent them through to the next round while eliminating their Dutch opponents.

Mears’s stint with Marseille came to a close at the end of the season, when they decided to not take up the purchase option on his loan contract. He then returned to Derby County, with his future in doubt due to the controversy in Marseille. The upcoming 2009 season would end up being his 8th year as a professional, and at 26 years old, he was moving into his prime as a professional footballer. That summer, in 2009, he was transferred to Premier League side Burnley for roughly 600,000 Euros. Mears debuted for the club in their first match of the season and then followed that with another start, where his side pulled the massive upset over reigning champions, Manchester United. Mears started all thirty-eight matches for Burnley during the season, and was voted their player of the year for the season even though the team suffered relegation. His first season with Burnley turned out to be the most successful season he had in his 8 years as a professional then. The fullback managed to assist six goals as well as attaining over 3,400 minutes in the season. In the following summer after his first season with Burnley, the fullback expressed his desire to stay in the premier league, but he ultimately decided to stay with the team who gave him his first real shot in the big leagues. His 2010/11 season with Burnley saw him assist eight goals, two more than the previous season, while also earning 9 yellow cards and 1 red card. He made forty-four appearances in the Premier league as well as earning appearances in the FA cup and the League Cup as well. His side did not earn promotion back to the premier league in the 2010/11 season, therefore Mears was looking for a move away from his side. That move came... wandering in the form of Bolton.

Bolton Wanderers v Derby County - npower Championship Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Okay, I’m sorry, that was an awful pun.

Mears signed with Bolton Wanderers of the Premier League. Accompanying him on his move to Bolton from Burnley was teammate Chris Eagles. They swapped sides together for a transfer fee of roughly 3 million Euros. An exciting move back to the Premier League had Mears hyped for the season, but the fullback suffered an unexpected setback during a training session in the beginning of August that season. He broke his leg and was expected to miss a large amount of time, which ended up being the whole first half of the season. The fullback did not return to the first team until the beginning of February in a match against Norwich, but tragedy struck again. Post-match, Mears complained to his coach and training staff about the leg that was previously broken, and it turned out that he needed a screw removed that would end up keeping him out for the rest of the season. The 2011/12 season for Mears was one to forget, as tragic injury struck him throughout. His team had also suffered relegation during that season, and this was the third time that Mears was relegated from the Premier League. A comeback was on the cards for Mears in his 2012/13 season, but a coaching change saw Mears in and out of the starting lineup. He ended up making 28 appearances throughout the season, but was declared out for the rest of the season after suffering a Glandular infection in the later half of the campaign. That ended up being the major story of his career with Bolton, highlighted by injury and a coach who he fell out of favor under. In 2013/14, he made three appearances and was released the following summer.

Swapping hemispheres

In December of 2014, Mears signed with MLS side Seattle Sounders. His two-year tenure with the MLS club saw him make 65 appearances, including a 120 minute performance in the 2016 MLS Cup, where his side were declared champions after beating Toronto FC in a penalty shoot-out. After the 2016 MLS Cup, the club declined to extend his contract and he was released. The club then traded his rights as a player to expansion side Atlanta United FC, who then signed him to a one year contract. He started 16 matches for the expansion side, making 20 appearances in total. Atlanta then released him at the end of the season, where he was to become a free agent.

So, that is his story. Tyrone Mears was a journey man, from England to France and now the US. He has quite the soccer background if I say so myself.

Tyrone Mears was selected by Minnesota United in the waiver draft in December of 2017, and he was presumably selected just as depth for a defense that was historically the worst in MLS, ever. That, has not been the case. Fullback was a major concern coming into 2018 four this club, and by all means, I fully did not expect Mears to even make a match-day lineup on the bench when he was signed. He proved me wrong, and he proved this fan base wrong. Tyrone Mears has been a revelation in his four matches for the Loons this season. The fullback has taken over the starting role that previously belonged to Marc Burch and Ish Jome in 2017. Through the four matches he has played with the club in 2018, he has played 353 minutes while averaging a 77% pass rate succession while adding 4.5 key passes per game and 2.5 successful long ball completions per game as well. The fullback has developed a fantastic partnership along the right hand side with Ethan Finlay, which was evidently seen during their match against Orlando City on March 10th. The fullback made a fantastic throw in towards Kevin Molino, who then passed it back to him and he slotted the ball on a silver platter for Finlay who then got the ball past their defense and chipped goalkeeper Joe Bendik. Tyrone Mears leads the team in key passes as well for 2018, with 18 through his four matches. The fullback was an essential piece in their victories over Chicago and Orlando this season, through his defensive play as well as his set piece taking. Mears was given the nod prior to the start of 2018 to take their set pieces. Since then, the fullback has become a fan favorite in four matches. Supporters have been praising him on social media as well as chanting his name during home matches, and the fullback has been welcomed with open arms. He may be thirty five years old out on the pitch, but he looks like he is in his twenties.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Minnesota United FC Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Tyrone Mears not only brings in veteran experience and leadership to the locker room, he also brings an upgrade at the fullback position. I am personally extremely excited to see what the season has in store for our Loons, and a huge part of that will lie upon our defense and the amount of strength they bring every game. Tyrone Mears is one player among eleven others on the pitch, but yet he has managed to stand out in comparison to many others; neglecting the fact that they may be younger and more energized. His journey as a player has been a long one, and his adventures as a footballer have been wild.

A journeyman, a fullback and a family man; Tyrone Mears. This is my ode to you Mr. Mears, thank you for joining our club, and thank you for all the effort you have brought so far this season. We cannot wait to see what you and the rest of our Loons bring for the remaining 2018 season.