Introducing Oceania’s Eleven. Throughout 2018 we will be tracking 11 promising footballers who we believe will have a breakout season in Oceania and beyond.
Adam Mitchell is one of several New Zealand youngsters playing football in England’s u23 leagues.
But in the last few months he has become on of the best and most consistent performers as Bolton Wanderers’ u23s have embarked on a massive unbeaten run.
A headed goal from a free kick against Sheffield United during a 3-2 victory extended the team’s run to eight games, and Mitchell starred again as a 2-1 away win at Huddersfield made it nine.
Mitchell had already shown an eye for goal in the run, scoring away at Barnsley in a 4-2 win. His equaliser came after Bolton found themselves 2-0 down early on.
Despite his strong goal record for a defender, Mitchell is very much a talent because of his defensive abilities.
He has been a regular performer in David Lee’s excellent u23 side and at just 21 has established himself at the heart of the defence.
He even has a highlights video on Youtube showcasing his strengths – the ability to win headers in both boxes, an eye for a tackle and the strength to dominate a striker.
However, he is also deceptively quick and is calm and collected on the ball, able to bring it out of defence when needed.
So good is Mitchell’s form that the club has extended his contract until the end of the season in England and the chances of him being retained beyond that is high.
If not, there will be a number of sides lining up to secure the signature of one of New Zealand’s hottest talents.
Born in Croatia, Mitchell has had a varied career. He started out at Wanderers in New Zealand before moving to WaiBop United in 2015.
Just a year later he signed for Red Star Belgrade, a grand old European team who won the European Champions League – then named the European Cup – in 1991.
It was at Red Star where he earned his first professional contract and, talking to Stuff.co.nz, outlined the stronger areas of his game.
He said: “I fitted in pretty well I thought, technically I was the same as what they had. The coach was really impressed with my speed, and my technical ability, and says that I have very good potential for a young player to become a good professional footballer.”
Despite not making an appearance for Red Star or his next club, Slovenian side NK Celje, Bolton decided to sign Mitchell in 2017.
The experience he has gained in his young career is incredible; on top of his club exploits he has also played for New Zealand u17s and u20s, including a FIFA u17 World Cup and u20 World Cup in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
He has also been called up to the full All Whites squad but has yet to make a single appearance for the national team.
This year will be huge for Mitchell. He will be keen to secure a longer stay at Bolton and to make the first team squad of a professional team.
At 21, he will also be hoping to secure an All Whites call up and state his case as a long-term successor to Winston Reid and Tommy Smith.
All signs at the moment point to both of those targets being achievable.