Belfast Telegraph

Friendship set aside as Mitchell and Johns do battle

 

By Gareth Hanna

Glenavon striker Andrew Mitchell and Coleraine goalkeeper Chris Johns will be childhood friends turned sworn enemies tomorrow afternoon when their sides clash in a mouthwatering top-two battle.

It's not often those coveted spots are occupied by two clubs outside the Big Smoke - not after mid-August at least.

Now that their respective title chases are stealing the spotlight from Linfield and Crusaders, excitement is building in Counties Armagh and Londonderry.

As Johns admits, a win at the weekend would be the 'biggest three points' of the season for the Bannsiders. But on his quest to secure those along with a seventh clean sheet of the campaign, he's going to have to hold out his old friend and former primary school team-mate Mitchell.

The pair played side by side at Waringstown PS. As two of those weird left-footers, they formed quite the partnership.

"Chris was our flying left-back," explained Mitchell, who returned to Waringstown as a Primary Six teacher. "He was supplying the balls into the box for me to score.

"When I came on - I didn't play much," interjected Chris.

That explains the move to goalkeeper, then? "Partly. I didn't get on much at left-back but also, I got growing pains a lot when I was a kid," he said. "It was a natural regression - I didn't have to run as much in nets and it stuck."

Primary school substitute left-back to league-leading first-choice goalkeeper - it's been quite a journey. And all via a full-time goalkeeping spell with Southampton.

"I'm not surprised because I know Chris always wanted to do the best for himself," said Mitchell. "He's a winner. He had that natural ability, even at lunch time he would go into nets and it was hard to get the ball past him."

"I think I was just a bull. I was a bit chubby and I just ran through people. There wasn't much skill."

Watch the full interview on http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/

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