Tyrone Mears’ spell at Bolton Wanderers was cut short by injury but the wing back enjoyed a career in which he played all over the world, including today’s opponents Derby County.
Mears started his playing career at the little-known Manchester City, where he made his only appearance as a substitute for the one and only Stuart Pearce against Nottingham Forest. That 6 minutes of football was the only on pitch part he’d play in City’s promotion winning campaign in 2002, so he went to Preston North End in search of regular football.
He signed for Preston for £200,000 and although not immediately winning a first team place, due mostly to the fact he played in the same position as Graham Alexander (now Scunthorpe boss) who made 400 appearances, he was a regular in the reserves. Mears would later say of Alexander that he was ‘technically, one of the best he’d ever played with’. Mears fought is way up through the ranks and became a focal point in the team for the second half of the season.
The following season would be even tougher for Mears, as he battled with an injury and lost his place in the team to Rob Edwards. He would only make 14 appearances but was rewarded for his efforts with ‘Most Improved Player Award’. In the off season, he suffered a stress fracture which then put him out of the game for 10 months but was luckily still offered a contract extension.
Preston’s faith in him would be rewarded as in the 2005-06 season, Mears made 39 appearances. One of the things that made his season so unique was that he chose to have his nickname, Tye, on the back of his shirt rather than his surname. He wore the number 14, rather than 24, this season too.
On the back of his performances he was signed by Alan Pardew’s West Ham United for £1.35 million. He unfortunately struggled to cement his position in the first team, despite playing in a European match, and was loaned to Derby in January. He made 17 appearances in their promotion winning campaign and was praised as a quick attacking full back. He made the move permanent in June 2007, signing a three year deal.
He was wearing the number 24 once more and suffered another stress fracture which meant he was ruled out until March, when he came on as a substitute in the game that relegated Derby from the Premier League. He then lost his shirt number to Miles Addison and lost his position in the team to Paul Connoly. If he had not been a footballer Mears said he would have been a pilot, perhaps it looked tempting at this point in his career. Not all was bleak however as he just broke into international football, playing for Jamaica against England at the New Den, despite it not technically being allowed.
His exit from Derby was not civil as Mears flew to France to have a trial with Olympique Marseille without the permission of his manager. He was fined six weeks wages and never played again for Derby. He secured the loan move he wanted and made appearances in many of the club’s European fixtures, even scoring the winner against Ajax in the UEFA cup to win the tie 4-3 on aggregate. He got his league opportunity when Laurent Bonnart was injured.
He enjoyed his time at the club, despite turning down the opportunity to return to Ligue One with a different side later in his career, chuckling about how the French take ‘two hours’ for lunch. After his spell in France, he chose to move back to England and signed for Burnley.
In Burnley’s premier league season of 2009-10, in which they were relegated under the tenure of Owen Coyle, Mears’ was a key player. He made 38 appearances and won their Player of the Season award. He would stick with the club in the Championship, despite interest from Premier League teams, and made 49 appearances.
He was then signed by Bolton Wanderers, along with future top scorer Chris Eagles, in a £3 million which saw him reunited with Coyle. His debut season was wiped out by injury problems as he broke his leg in August and it wouldn’t heal until January, when further operations had to be performed to get him back to full health. He would make his full league debut a year after being signed in a 2-0 defeat to Burnley.
When Dougie Freedman was appointed, he lost his first team place and then suffered from an array of injury difficulties including a blood infection. He would make sporadic appearances for the club and was released at the end of his three year contract.
He then moved to the MLS and signed for Seattle Sounders, where he became a regular and even helped them win the title in his second season with the club, whilst studying Counter Terrorism at university. He said he much preferred the relaxed atmosphere of the MLS, as the fans trust the players much more in America. He then moved to Atlanta FC after being released.
In a career plagued with injury difficulties, he managed to play football all over the world and win a mix of individual and team awards. Although his time at both Derby and Bolton had a bitter end, we wish him all the best.