Getting to know Adam Mitchell

To say that Wanderers Under-23 starlet Adam Mitchell has experienced something of a whirlwind in recent months would be an understatement. However, the 21-year-old’s footballing story up to this point is already one of an incredible nature.

Son of a Croatian mother and New Zealand father, his journey started in those Pacific Islands. Growing up in Auckland, he worked his way through the ranks at Wanderers SC, but Mitchell admitted that the goal was always to move overseas when he was a youngster growing up.

"It's a nice and easy place to live and grow up," he said. "The footballing side of things is good, but it isn't on par with the big leagues in England.

"For a young lad, it is key to get overseas and play football as soon as you can and everybody from a young age is gearing up to do that.

"When I was a child, I enjoyed football and worked hard. I trained day in and day out, pushing for that move overseas."

A key moment happened however during his childhood when he switched from playing as a central midfielder to a centre back, and he believes this move was one that has benefited him over time and made him a more attractive prospect for clubs around the world.

When talking about the switch-up, Mitchell explained, "At a young age, I used to play centre midfield. Obviously, it has helped me now as midfielders are more technically based. I had the ball at my feet a lot more and worked on that.

"When I moved back to defence, I started growing taller and bigger than everybody else, so I thought the move was key in my career.

“I had a higher technical ability than other centre backs that grew up solely in that position, which really pushed me forward at a young age."

Whilst constantly improving over in the southern hemisphere meanwhile, Mitchell was spotted by the New Zealand youth squads from an early age.

And so far, he has accumulated caps at both U17 and U20 level for the All Whites, the former which he captained to success in the OFC Championships back in 2013, along with appearances at U17 and the 2015 U20 World Cup.

When talking about his experiences of international youth football, Mitchell spoke about many of his fond memories from the differing tournaments he has played in.

When reflecting specifically about the U17 World Cup however, Mitchell passionately said, "It’s a great privilege to play for your country at such a young age - coming from school football and going straight into club football to represent your country on the biggest stage in the world, it is a massive honour.

"We won the OFC Cup to take us to the U17 World Cup which was in the UAE. That was a great experience, going overseas and playing against some of the best countries in the world.

"Playing against Uruguay, Italy and Ivory Coast - for young lads to go abroad and play against the big nations in world football, it’s amazing to see the level we need to be at to be professional footballers."

It was during the U20 World Cup however that scouts from Serbian powerhouses Red Star Belgrade spotted the centre back and offered him a month’s trial, and while the 21-year-old admitted that the culture of the Eastern European nation was the most difficult to get used to, he explained that the people and fans were nothing but helpful in the settling in process.

"I hadn’t really heard much about them, but they are a Champions League winner, so I just took that opportunity straight away,” said the youngster.

"My mum is Croatian and I’ve got lots of family in those parts, so I knew a bit of the language, given its similarities. That got me by at the beginning.

"You go on the street and a lot of people speak English there and they are always helping you which helped me settle - it wasn’t as hard as people would think.

"It was crazy though - coming from New Zealand where you get a max of a few thousand at games, to Red Star where in my debut match against Olympiakos in a friendly that was in front of 50,000!”

From Red Star, Mitchell moved out on loan to the Serbian Second Division along with a brief spell at Slovenian club, NK Celje. With first team opportunities sparse in Serbia though, he found his way to Bolton Wanderers and is dreaming of one day, playing at the highest level in England.

"Everyone’s dream was to play in the Premier League - it’s the biggest league in the world,” he smiled. “My agent said that coming to England was a fantastic opportunity for me and I felt like I had nothing to lose – I jumped at the chance to come to a club like Bolton Wanderers."

And the defender has certainly impressed with the club so far, with Mitchell a regular member of David Lee's Wanderers Under-23s side who are currently topping the North Division in the Professional Development League.

His performances haven't gone unnoticed either, with new All Whites coach Fritz Schmid calling up the highly-rated youngsters into the squad against Canada in Spain late last month – a proud moment for Mitchell.

"Schmid gave me the opportunity to be called up to the national team and it’s such an honour to play at the highest international level,” he admitted.

"The first thing I did is call my parents. The time difference is quite hard, but I waited for them to get up and called them. I was bursting to break the news!"

Mitchell started the game against Canada late last month, but got injured just 13 minutes into the game which New Zealand lost 1-0.

And even though it didn't go entirely his way, the feeling of making his debut for the All Whites was a major moment of pride for him.

"It was unfortunate to get injured so early on my debut, but it is still something I am immensely proud of and will never forget."

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