“It’s a dream come true. I never, ever thought it would happen so quickly,” said Tyrick Mitchell after his surprise England call-up for the March friendlies with Switzerland and Ivory Coast.
With regulars Ben Chilwell and Kieran Trippier injured and Luke Shaw still trying to return to full fitness, the Crystal Palace left-back is a benefit of circumstance – but put himself in contention with a series of impressive displays in the Premier League this season.
“He’s been very good with his defending,” England boss Southgate said of the 22-year-old. “He gets out quickly to people and in the biggest games against top opponents he’s coped really well.”
That defensive awareness and calm mentality will benefit him this coming week, should he make his England debut at Wembley, in his home borough of Brent.
They are also traits which have set Mitchell apart during his progress through the youth ranks.
While he never achieved international recognition in England age-group teams, his potential has been clear at Crystal Palace since he joined the club in 2016, following Brentford’s decision to close their academy.
Richard Shaw, who coached Palace’s U23 team, saw first-hand how Mitchell – like his former team-mate Aaron Wan-Bissaka – had the attributes to take him to the first team and become a reliable performer in the Premier League.
“His character was excellent. He was very calm, nothing fazed him,” Shaw tells Sky Sports about his early impressions of Mitchell.
“When he came into the U23s he was quite cool on the ball but his one v one defending stood out.
“The first thing I look for in a full-back is defending and he was a fantastic one v one defender. Very similar to Aaron Wan-Bissaka in that sense. He was very difficult to beat: he got up to people quickly, had a good turn of pace…
“You can see that has stood him in good stead and he’s kicked on in the last year or two.”
Indeed, Mitchell’s defensive skills have made him a key component in Palace’s impressive backline. Only seven teams have conceded fewer goals than Patrick Vieira’s team this term and Mitchell ranks among the top three in the Premier League for tackles won and crosses blocked.
That defensive solidity encouraged former boss Roy Hodgson to promote Mitchell to the senior squad, handing him his debut in July 2020. After battling with Patrick van Aanholt for the left-back spot last season, Mitchell has made it his own this time around.
“It’s hard for young players to make it in the Premier League,” says Shaw, who is now Watford U23s assistant coach.
“Managers haven’t got the time and you’ve got to hit the ground running. The Premier League is so demanding you haven’t got time to bed in. But that’s what Tyrick’s done.”
With two assists and just three shots from his 29 appearances in the Premier League this season, the next challenge for Mitchell is to add to the attacking elements of his game. After all, that has been a key feature of the full-backs who have thrived under Southgate with England in recent years.
But with his defensive base, Shaw believes Mitchell is well-placed to develop in that area too.
“He’s really improved the attacking side of the game,” said Shaw. “I could see that side of his game developing just before I left Palace.
“We never really worried too much about his defending. He knew when to get in, when to get out quick, not to sell himself. He knows how to show a winger where he wants him to be, where he’s most comfortable.
“But in the modern game now you’ve got to be assisting, you’ve got to see goalscoring opportunities. England have an abundance of full-backs who aren’t only good full-backs but who are very good on the ball. That’s what the modern-day defender has to have and do. For Tyrick – that’s one thing that’s really improved over the last few years.”
Shaw is looking forward to seeing how Mitchell handles the big stage at Wembley on Saturday, should he be selected by Southgate to face Switzerland. And he’s confident his former player will make the most of his opportunity.
He’ll be nervous meeting up with the squad for the first time but that’s a good thing to have and once he gets on the training pitch I think he’ll do himself justice.
“Circumstances happen in football,” says Shaw. “You make your own luck in football and you have to grab that and see where it takes you.
“He’ll be nervous meeting up with the squad for the first time but that’s a good thing to have and once he gets on the training pitch I think he’ll do himself justice.
“He’ll be in awe of some of the players but I think Southgate has created an environment which makes it more comfortable for a player to join the squad now.”
Mitchell’s dream has become a reality – but his talent, character and hard work mean he’s well-equipped for the challenge.