Billy Mitchell is set to be back in first-team contention for Millwall next week – with manager Gary Rowett once again glowing on the teenager’s attitude.
The 19-year-old from Orpington, who grew up as a Lions fan, had been out with a torn hamstring suffered while the squad were away on their pre-season training camp in Scotland.
But Mitchell played 90 minutes for Millwall’s U23s in midweek and is ready to step up his push to be back in Rowett’s plans.
The Lions chief said: “He was out for a long time, it’s probably as serious a hamstring injury as you can get without having an operation.
“You’ve got to build things back up sensibly. But Billy is a good example of a player who does everything right and his rewards are that he comes back from injury and looks fit. Not first-team fit, because he has not played first-team games where the tempo is different. But at the same time if I wanted to pick him against Cardiff he would be available for me to do that.
“It might still take a little bit of time for him to get back into the squad but, as I’ve said before, he is a player I expect to force his way back into the team.
“I don’t think we’ve got any big, glaring weaknesses in that area but Billy’s one I expect to really push for a starting place. It’s testament to how diligent and professional he is off the pitch.”
Mitchell has made 11 appearances for the Lions at first-team level. Ten of those came last season.
Rowett said: “There is always a little passage of rites for a young player. You are in and around training with the first team, then you get the odd fleeting performance every now and again and then you go to starting games depending on how you’ve done – that can be starting all the time or some of the time.
“This season would have been a chance to start more games because in pre-season he was superb.
“When the injury first happened my first thought was how Billy was going to take it because sometimes players find it really difficult. I remember talking to him about it and he said: ‘It is what it is – I have to make sure I come back stronger’. What a fabulous mentality and level-headed response.
“I’ve said all along that Billy will be a very, very good footballer and his mentality will take him wherever he needs to go. His mentality is as good as any I’ve worked with. Your level is dictated to a certain degree by your ability.
“I look forward to seeing how he develops and seeing if he can go and become a regular for us.
“We had a strong debate in the summer about bringing another loan midfielder in – and there was a strong argument that he is our player. I suppose the only doubt is whether he was at the level yet to play 30, 35 games. The answer at that point was hard to tell.
“I think at some point Billy Mitchell will be a starting midfielder for us. Wouldn’t that be nice to have one of ours get better and improve with the team? It’s down to Billy – he’s got a long way to go.”
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