England have another Boy From Brent and his name is Tyrick Mitchell
Tyrick Mitchell discusses his first England call-up and why he relishes the opportunity to follow Raheem Sterling in being a role model for the children of Brent
Every player’s first England call-up is special. But sometimes there are ones which pull at the heart strings more than most.
There are certain players who seemed destined to play for Three Lions from a young age. Joined an academy as a six or seven-year-old, stayed at their boyhood club throughout, played in multiple England age group sides, always tipped for stardom.
Tyrick Mitchell was not one of those players.
As a young boy, Mitchell grew up in a single-parent household, moving between different hostels and housing within the benefits system in the north-west London area alongside his mother and sisters.
His talent was undeniable. Those who played with him at his first grassroots club, Pinner Albion, and on the fields at Willesden Sports Centre will attest to that.
But when Watford came calling at under-10 level, a young Mitchell was not attending sessions and it seemed the cards which were stacked against him would ultimately end with his footballing dream falling.
However, a phone call from Watford scout John Creith to his good friend, AFC Wembley coach Abdi Farah, would prove life changing.
Creith, who had also spotted Raheem Sterling playing for Vernon House School while working for QPR, asked Farah to put his arm around Mitchell and make sure he didn’t drop out of the game.
The AFC Wembley coach and youth worker would eventually build a tight-knit relationship which continues to this day.
In Farah’s words, Mitchell was a young player who was ‘a class above’ and ‘had everything to his game’ but was also a child who ‘you couldn’t get a word out of at that age’.
Farah and the other coaches would collect Mitchell to take him to football and by under-12 level, Brentford had come calling.
After the first year, issues around Mitchell’s attendance resurfaced but this time Brentford’s staff were able to call upon Farah and he was able to help get the talented teenager back on track.
Brentford’s former academy head of coaching, Stuart English, explained on a Crystal Palace documentary about Mitchell how ‘every challenge he faced going through the age groups or in training, he seemed to find a way to survive’.
Mitchell’s challenges growing up had seen him mature much quicker than his peers but just when it looked as though his dream of becoming a professional footballer was on the verge of coming true, Brentford decided to close their academy just a few months after the 16-year-old had signed his scholarship forms.
The defender acknowledges he struggled with the change of leaving what felt like ‘home’ at Brentford but Farah, who by this point had become the player’s agent, said over the next five weeks, around 20 clubs showed an interest.
Mitchell’s desire to stay close to his mum meant the majority of clubs were ruled out almost immediately and after meeting Crystal Palace’s academy director, Gary Issott, he decided to sign for the Eagles.
Mitchell only made his senior Palace debut less than two years ago but after the withdrawals of Reece James and Trent Alexander-Arnold, the left back received a debut call-up alongside fellow defender Kyle Walker-Peters, with club team-mate Marc Guéhi having already been handed a maiden call-up earlier in the camp.
The left back was preparing for Crystal Palace’s FA Cup quarter-final against Everton on Sunday 20 March when he received an unexpected text from Emily Webb, England Men’s lead team manager, informing him of his first England call-up for any age group.
Mitchell explained: “When I first found out, it was surreal. It was something which I could not explain with words. The only word I could really use is just pure joy. That was the first emotion and then it was nerves because this is a big stage and you want to impress. First of all though, it was happiness and joy.”
He continued: “The first person I told was my mum. It is a dream come true for myself and my family, so naturally you have to tell your mum or your parents straight away.
“Her emotions were that of pure joy. As much as this is a dream for me, it is a dream for her to see me called up for England so she was as happy as I was.”
Whilst fellow newbies Guéhi and Walker-Peters have regularly starred for numerous England age group sides and have even won youth World Cups - so are well versed on the surroundings - this was Mitchell’s first time at St. George’s Park.
Upon his arrival, he was met by the England staff and manager Gareth Southgate.
Although Mitchell had seen Southgate at a Crystal Palace Academy open day in the past, when the former Eagles defender was doing a speech, the call-up was the first time the Londoner had spoken with the Three Lions boss.
Mitchell said: “He told me to enjoy the call-up and that they had seen what I have been doing with my club this season. I am here because of the good things I have done so just be happy, don’t be nervous and just enjoy it. It is a great place to be, it is a great bunch of lads and just to take it all in.”
Mitchell’s integration into the England squad was helped by the fact he had two club-mates in the shape of Conor Gallagher and Guéhi.
“Having Conor and Marc here has actually helped me a lot because even though everyone are good lads, it is not always the easiest going into a big group where you don’t know anyone at all. So to have Marc and Conor here allowed me to settle in quicker and feel a bit more comfortable within myself. So it definitely helped having them here.”
His response showed an honesty and humility which shone throughout the duration of our interview.
Despite being one of the best up-and-coming left backs in the Premier League since his arrival into the Crystal Palace team, when asked if he had been expecting his maiden England call-up,
Mitchell admitted he just wanted to be playing well enough that people even considered him worthy of a first Three Lions cap.
The 22-year-old said: “To be fair, it was not something that I thought about in the sense of having a time period, where I thought ‘this would be a good time for it to have happened by’. I just felt that hopefully one day, whenever that may come, that I would be playing well enough to be considered as someone who could be called up.
“So I didn’t really have my mind set on being called up in this camp or that camp. It was more like a distant dream that I was working towards and I didn’t mind whenever it came.”
As a young Mitchell dreamt of one day becoming a professional footballer, he would often hear the roar of the Wembley crowd when England scored.
However, prior to Saturday, he had only visited the iconic venue twice: once for a community event to celebrate the new Wembley Stadium being opened in 2007 and then for Wayne Rooney’s final game for the Three Lions in 2018.
Mitchell said: “I’ve always dreamed of playing at Wembley, especially because of growing up in that area and when you would be travelling around to play in matches, you could always see the arch. You could see it over the houses and it was always a surreal dream to play there or even be a part of a team that was playing there.
“I’ve seen them change the old Wembley over to the new Wembley and seen the Wembley area change in general. It has brought excitement to me and playing at Wembley is something that I have always wanted to do and I am happy that I am going to have the chance to even be able to warm-up on the pitch or anything like that. This is definitely a dream come.”
Three days later, the dream became a reality. Not only did Mitchell get to warm up on the pitch at Wembley, he made his England debut and received a Legacy Cap.
Number 1269: Tyrick Mitchell.
The term role model is used a lot when it comes to footballers and in particular England players. The very best in the country; kids look up to them.
And in the case of Mitchell, his call-up and subsequent England debut offers hope to so many children who find themselves in challenging circumstances. Whether it is growing up in social housing, not having a parent around or seeing your dream snatched away from you just as it is about to become a reality, Mitchell has shown it is still possible to achieve your dreams.
He said: "It is a case of showing people who are in certain negative situations which they have to overcome that if you stay positive, then any situation you go through, positive or negative, you can get through it and become something great and become something that you have always wanted to be.”
Mitchell also recognises it would not have been possible to do it alone.
“I had my mum, Abdi and a lot of coaches at Brentford – there were a few people that helped me a lot,” he said.
“I had a lot of good friends and friends I have today where a lot of them are people who push me and they don’t let me stay down for too long.
“There are a lot of people who I have around me who have helped me get to this point.”
He continued: “That is one thing that I have tried to do myself because naturally you dictate who you put yourself around and I try to make sure I am around positive people and people who help me push on and me naturally help them push on.
“Growing up I had that in abundance and I am thankful for that because it is a real positive that I had that in my life.”
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Whether he meant to do it or not, there was something poetic about the way Southgate introduced Mitchell for his Wembley debut on Saturday.
As he stood on one of the most famous pitches in world football, waiting to replace Luke Shaw, standing alongside him was another local lad, Raheem Sterling.
Like Mitchell, Sterling grew up in the shadows of Wembley, riding his bike around the nearby car parks and even has a tattoo on his arm showing a ten-year-old boy looking up at the iconic stadium.
Whilst Sterling has received national and international recognition for the work he has done on tackling racism and as one of England’s most consistent and impressive performers in recent years, the impact he has had on the children of Brent cannot be underestimated.
Mitchell said: “Obviously, everyone in our area looks up to Raheem as a massive role model for coming out of our area.
“I don’t know if he remembers but I remember one time I spoke to him when he was at Liverpool. I don’t know how old I was, I was young, and I think he had only just broken into the first team at Liverpool and I was with someone who knew him so he called Raheem and I spoke to him. It was only a couple of minutes but it was the first time I spoke to him and it was massive for me to have the chance to speak to him.
“Seeing him go from QPR to Liverpool at such a young age, that doesn’t happen every day. So even based off of that, he was a role model in everyone’s eyes just because of that move alone.
“It was like an honour to speak to him and [when you are that age] to know that he is from the same area as me, he walked down the same roads I am now walking on, getting on the same buses that I get on.
“To understand that someone who is just like you can go on and achieve stardom, it pushes you on even more.”
Raheem Sterling: The Boy From Brent. It is a moniker which has been widely used for the star forward.
But now England have another Boy From Brent. Another role model for the kids growing up in the shadows of the arch.
“For me, it is a crazy feeling to know that people are looking up to me now,” Mitchell said. “Especially now I have received this England call-up because I will have even more people looking up to me.
“It is a bit crazy for me but the main thing is showing people that you can do this as well.
“There are multiple examples out there of people doing it and sometimes that is the main thing. Sometimes seeing it and believing it are two different things so allowing people from my area to see it and believe it is massive for me.”
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