Billy Mitchell is ready and waiting if he gets his chance to add to his Championship minutes – especially if it boosts his chances of extending his Millwall stay.
The Lions were already depleted in the middle of the park due to injuries to Ben Thompson and Ryan Leonard. And Shaun Williams will start a three-match ban for his dismissal at Stoke City last weekend.
Millwall were trying to land a midfielder on loan as our paper went to press.
Every young player needs a chance to shine. And Mitchell, who made his debut as a late substitute on the final day of last season at Wigan, is eager to show what he can do. The 18-year-old’s home bow came in the 3-0 FA Cup win over Newport County earlier this month.
“Football is one of those games where you don’t necessarily want other peoples’ downfall to be what you’re waiting for – but unfortunately that’s just the way it is,” said Mitchell, who was also involved in the EFL Cup tie at Oxford in August.
“I’ve had a couple of games this season, so I feel a bit more prepared. I gained a bit of sharpness through playing the Newport game.
“It will certainly be a test if I feature in any of the matches because I’ve had cup ones against lower league opposition. I played in the Wigan game last season, maybe the tempo was a bit slower because it was the last one.
“But I feel I’ve adapted having trained with the first team for a long time. I don’t think it’s something I can’t handle.
“Young players are desperate to impress because these opportunities can be few and far between. You never know how long you’ll have to wait for the next one.
“In terms of nerves, you have to tell yourself that it’s just another game of football, something you’ve been doing your whole life. The tempo might be a bit quicker and a bit more physical but it’s nothing that you can’t deal with.
“You have to have a positive mindset going into it.
“If the manager didn’t think you were ready he wouldn’t put you in – regardless of the situation. There’s some element of trust there.”
Millwall manager Gary Rowett has talked about the dilemma of whether to send Mitchell out on loan to gain a chunk of game time – but with current squad numbers on the low side it means he is closer to the first-team.
“It’s a tough situation,” said Mitchell. “I think I’ve had two conversations with the gaffer regarding this.
“It probably would’ve been better to go on loan because you can gain 20 games of mens’ football at a really good level and be ready to come back and make a statement at Millwall.
“But at the same time we were pretty bare bones with our squad. Now Willo has that suspension it’s only one step from me actually having two or three starts in the Championship, which is an equally great experience.”
Mitchell is due to be out of contract at the end of this season. It seems a safe bet he will be offered new terms.
“I’m desperate to stay,” he said. “If I do play a couple of games before the end of the season then hopefully I can make a mark.
“I hope the club will offer a new contract. I want to continue to progress here and break in properly in the next couple of years.”
Mitchell’s family hail from Bermondsey and are all big Millwall fans.
“Dad certainly doesn’t miss a game,” he said. “He grew up within miles of the ground. My great-nan lived in the estate opposite Zampa Road. That made for good parking a couple of years ago. We’d go and watch the first team and nick her space, because it’s not easy to park around there.”
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