ALEX Mitchell is having sleepless nights ahead of the last weekend of the National League season – but he wouldn’t want it any other way.
Millwall centre-back Mitchell, 19, is on loan at Bromley who are in a five-way tussle for the two remaining play-off spots.
Altrincham did Bromley a favour on Tuesday evening by holding Eastleigh to a draw. But that was still enough for Eastleigh to go above Bromley into eighth. The Lions’ south London neighbours need to beat Notts County on Saturday and hope two of the three teams above them drop points.
Bromley were almost virtually out of contention for the top seven in the 95th-minute of their game at Aldershot last Saturday when the score was 2-2, before Joe Kizzi’s dramatic last-gasp winner.
That leaves the Ravens ninth, level on points with Eastleigh in eighth and Chesterfield in the last play-off spot, two off Wrexham in sixth and a point ahead of Halifax.
“It’s quite funny, we played Aldershot last Saturday and I was rejected by their academy,” Windsor-born Mitchell tells NewsAtDen. “It’s ironic, isn’t it?
“Limbs were going round, I’ll be honest. 95th-minute. They were knackered.”
Mitchell joined Bromley on loan in April and made his debut in senior professional football in a 2-1 away win at Chesterfield.
In eight games he has been on the losing side only once – the return match against the Spireites – and has helped the team to three clean sheets.
He was recruited after an injury to former Millwall centre-back Byron Webster. But Mitchell thought his chances of a loan move to Bromley were gone after an under-23 game in April.
“23s football is brilliant, up to a point,” the 6ft3ins defender says. “I‘m not saying I‘m too good for 23s, I‘m not saying anything like that, but me as a physical player, I felt like I needed first-team football.
“At the start of the season I didn’t ask for a loan, but was asking a little bit about it. Scott [Fitzgerald, head of academy] always knew I was eager to go out on loan, I‘d snap his hand off to go out on loan.
“I remember we played Birmingham and we lost 3-2 or 3-0, an absolute demolishing. Bromley were there watching.
“[Former under-23 team-mate] Rob Strachan was telling me that they were looking for a centre-back. I was like, ‘that one’s gone by, why would they look for a centre-back that’s conceded three goals?’
“But luckily Scott called me up and said, ‘you’re signing for Bromley tomorrow so get yourself down there’.
“It was a feeling of being wanted, they’ve watched you and want you in their team. It’s a weird but great feeling.”
It’s one measure of how well Mitchell has done that Bromley are in with a chance of the play-offs on the last day despite the absence since the start of April of the experienced Webster. (They were 10th, four points of seventh having played a game more, when Webster was injured in a 0-0 draw against Stockport on April 5.)
Webster is one of three former Millwall players and League One play-off winners at the club, along with midfielder Liam Trotter and assistant manager Alan Dunne (though Dunne missed the 2010 final).
Mitchell is grateful for their guidance and that of manager, Andy Woodman.
“Webbie and Trotts have been excellent with me,” Mitchell says. “Dunney, Roger Johnson, the gaffer, they’ve all been like father figures to me. They’ve all been helping me out every step of the way. I can’t not thank them for that.
“But even with all that, now before a game I stay up thinking about the game. We’ve got Notts County on Saturday which is possibly the biggest game in Bromley’s history because it’s potentially play-offs.
“And I’d be lying to you if I told you I’ve slept right. Like Saturday at Aldershot, it’s just the pressure. But I love it, it’s what I thrive off in football.
“If we get the three points we still might not be able to get in it but I do think a team will slip up. Hopefully we do the job.”
Dunne told the NOLUT podcast recently that one of Mitchell’s main strengths is his attitude.
Former Millwall captain Dunne recalled that after arriving back in south London at 1am after one game this season, as the rest of the squad started to make their way home, Mitchell stayed behind to help unload gear and equipment from the team bus.
Dunne said that ethic is one of the reasons he thinks Mitchell has a chance of playing first-team football for the Lions.
“That’s the first time I’ve heard that,” Mitchell says. “I do remember it. I think it was Halifax away. That was a long trip.
“Credit where credit is due, they make a lot of well-attributed youngsters [at Millwall]. To be honest with you, there wasn’t a chance I wasn’t going to help out. I’ve always done it.
“My dad would hurt me if I didn’t help out! My mum would slap me around the neck or something. I would not be allowed to not help.
“It’s just Millwall, they’re great. You’ve got to give credit to the whole academy. Every single coach, sports scientist, physio, scout. They’ve all got one aim: To make good people.
“Obviously it’s a football club, it’s a result-based game. But one of the main attributes they want to develop in you is being a good person in your life.
“Credit where credit is due for that.”
Mitchell has another year on his first professional deal at Millwall. He wants more first-team football next season.
“Everything’s up in the air with Covid,” Mitchell adds. “A lot of players have been released. A lot of clubs are getting older senior players who have been released from League One clubs and League Two.
“It’s obviously a very saturated market at the moment. I’ll talk to my agent about it because that’s a problem.
“Bromley have been as good as gold. Every day going in I’ve loved it, it’s a great club.
“Andy Woodman, the gaffer, has been unreal with me. He’s one of the reasons why I’m doing well, losing just one game.
“Next year I’ll keep working as hard as I can and whatever happens happens, really. Hopefully I’ll be playing in a first team somewhere, wherever that will be.”
Bromley Images: James Tanner