Millwall midfielder discusses how this season beats last as he is on course to achieve targets

FOR someone who raised the eyebrows of Millwall’s coaching and fitness staff with some of his lockdown runs, you can imagine how frustrated Billy Mitchell has been cooped up at home for 10 days.

Mitchell, 20, was one of the Lions players who tested positive for Covid-19 last week.

As of Monday afternoon, Mitchell was still in self-isolation and limited to training with weights and whatever he could do in his back garden.

It’s safe to say that didn’t involve a 15km run. That was the figure he posted on the Strava app used by the squad and Millwall staff last year before football resumed and players were getting their runs in at local parks or on the streets.

That long run caught the attention of boss Gary Rowett and the sports scientists, who had to tell Mitchell to ease up a little bit.

Mitchell was one of the players who tested positive a year ago when there was an outbreak in the camp causing festive games against Bournemouth and Watford to be postponed.

When Millwall played Coventry in their next game there was an obvious lack of energy.

Players who didn’t test positive in the most recent outbreak returned on Monday to the training ground, which was shut last week as the club took measures to stop the spread.

Mitchell was speaking to NewsAtDen this week before it was confirmed the Swansea City game on Boxing Day was postponed.

“I had no symptoms whatsoever. I’ve been double-vaccinated and I had Covid around this time last year,” Mitchell said. “With the culmination of those two things, this time around I’ve had no symptoms to speak of and don’t feel ill at all.

“On one hand that’s good but on the other hand having to isolate when you don’t feel ill is quite frustrating.

“Perhaps the only thing I could say both times around was a little bit of extra fatigue. But football being a physical job sometimes it’s hard to discern the difference between what’s just normally being tired and then Covid-tired, if that makes sense.

“I know if you have symptoms you obviously take a test to protect your team-mates, staff and so on but when you don’t have any symptoms it’s quite a hard one to catch, to be honest.

“It seems to hit everyone differently. A few of the lads have felt really ill whereas some have felt absolutely fine.

The midfielder has been a regular in Gary Rowett’s side this season

“The sports science team sent me through a home programme with strength circuits and high-intensity interval training. I’ve got a small garden and a set of weights and dumbbells and stuff which I have been using.

“But obviously when you’re isolating you’re not allowed out to do any running so I’m going to have to wait for that to end before I can do anything proper.

“I’m not going to lie, the first few days not being able to run wasn’t nice and after a while you feel very home-bound and quite frustrated. There are only so many Christmas movies you can watch or songs you can listen to!”

Mitchell is a popular member of the squad and Matt Smith recently said he is often on the receiving end of the dreaded footballer ‘banter’, but in a good way.

Making friendships in the dressing is something Mitchell thinks is key.

“Big time. You see each other every single day, probably more than your families,” Mitchell said.

“You have to make an effort to form some good relationships. It’s important that lads take it upon themselves because it’s quite easy to go to training, go back home and live your own lives.

“Sometimes it depends how you’re playing as well, how you take the banter. If you’re in a rich vein of form then you’re going to accept people taking the piss out of you. Whereas if you’re not playing well sometimes it gets your back up.

“In general, I know a lot of people have said it, I think our training ground is pretty good and I certainly have a lot of good friends here.

“Prior to Covid, before it became a massive thing, quite often a few of us would go to dinner with each other, get a healthy pre-match meal on the night prior to the game. Or even during the week.

“But now obviously with all the restrictions and things that has gone a little.

“Also now a lot of the lads have had children so it seems like their home lives have become a lot busier. We’ve got a lot less single lads who don’t have kids. So that’s not something we really do anymore.”

Mitchell has played every minute of Millwall’s last nine games, a run that would have been broken had the game against Preston gone ahead last Saturday as he would have been self-isolating.

He has made 21 appearances this campaign, already a career-high number in his fourth season in senior football.

The Lions man on his debut at Wigan in 2019 against Chelsea’s Reece James

“I had those goals set at the beginning of last season but it didn’t quite work out. This season it’s certainly going to plan,” Mitchell said.

“To be honest, I was quite frustrated and nervous when I got a positive Covid result because I thought I was going to end up missing potentially a few games.

“Obviously you want your team-mates to play well, but at the same time if someone steps into your position and plays well you could then be out of the team for however many number of weeks.

“The game was cancelled which on a personal note I’m pleased about, though not with the general situation.

“If I can continue to make as many appearances as I can this season I think it’s going to bode well for the future.”

Image: Millwall FC 

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John Kelly