'I feel I need to kick on and play' – Millwall midfielder discusses his immediate future

BILLY Mitchell believes he should be aiming for a League One or League Two club – if he goes out on loan this month.

Millwall are currently stretched in midfield with Ben Thompson and Ryan Leonard out injured, but they hope to strengthen that area in January.

That would potentially open a route for Mitchell – who doesn’t turn 19 until April – to go out on loan.

Mitchell made his senior competitive debut just after his eighteenth birthday last season when he came on as a substitute at Wigan.

He was handed his first start by former Lions boss Neil Harris in the second round of the EFL Cup at Oxford in August. Gary Rowett gave him his home debut when he got another 90 minutes under his belt in Millwall’s 3-0 win over Newport last Saturday.

Those experiences have whetted his appetite and he would be open to a loan move this month.

“I’ve been training with the first team for a long time now and I believe I’m certainly capable of playing to a higher level. Under-23 standard can still be very impressive with first-team players coming down to gain fitness or minutes.

“It’s still a standard to be reckoned with, but I do really feel I need to kick on and play as many first-team games as I can, whether that be here at Millwall or out on loan at whatever standard, League One or League Two.

“I’m just going to have to see what happens but I’m ready to make the next step. It’s a big change when you go on loan especially if you’re living away from home.

“In some ways I think that really helps you develop as a young man when you have to fend for yourself, cook, clean, take a lot of responsibility. And certainly the football, playing at a higher level when there’s stuff on the line week-in, week-out.

"It’s obviously benefitted Dan [Danny McNamara] tremendously. That’s something that he’s noted to me and that’s something I want to experience as well.”

Mitchell showed on his Den debut last weekend he wasn’t afraid to demand the ball. He believes it’s crucial to be “brave” in possession.

Billy Mitchell (second) made his full debut at Oxford

“The gaffer really wants to play attractive football through the thirds but ultimately for us to make the right decisions,” Mitchell continued. “If it’s right to go long into the forwards then so be it. If it’s right to play through midfield so be it.

“Against Newport he wanted us to pick up a lot of second balls and get the ball wide because we felt there were going to be opportunities for us to cross and cause them problems, especially with our four attacking players.

“He wants us to get on the ball and try and dictate play as much as possible, move the ball quickly and try to break down teams that way.

“It’s all about being brave, you have to back yourself at the end of the day and try and make the right decisions. Ultimately you’ve got a long career ahead and are going to make mistakes, but you can’t shy away from trying to do the right thing.

“You have to try to get on the ball. The gaffer told me before I went out there, ‘don’t worry about any mistakes you might make, just keep trying to get on the ball and show us what you’re made of’. I feel I did that.”

Mitchell also had words of advice from club skipper Alex Pearce.

Mitchell continued: “Pearcey’s a massive influence on the dressing room, he’s a great leader. He was really helpful for me in that game, being in my ear, telling me where to go. That certainly helps with your nerves on your home debut.

“He did speak to me before the game and said to me to compose myself and relax as I did in previous games in pre-season, at Oxford and in training. I felt that was helpful advice.

“All the other boys will tell you in their interviews. He’s certainly partly responsible for the standards we’re keeping and it’s yielded some really good results recently.”

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly