Obituary. Chris Mitchell

Christopher Philip Mitchell was born in Stirling on 21 July 1988. He began his youth career with Livingston. From Livi he joined the academy at Falkirk and was subsequently offered pro terms there. He made his competitive first team debut in Scottish football with a sub appearance in the 90th minute on 22 December 2007. The opposition was Motherwell in a 3-0 away win for Falkirk.

His moment of greatest note at Falkirk was a winner against a team among those with the highest of pedigrees. In July 2007 Mitchell scored in the 86th minute for a 2-1 win in a friendly. The opponents were no less than the Dutch masters of Ajax doing pre season in Scotland. Mitchell's shot hit Thomas Vermaelen to deflect over Dennis Gentenaar in the Ajax goal. Mitchell commented at the time.

"The goal was lucky basically. I couldn't believe it; it's not every day you score the winner against Ajax. I'm delighted for the whole team, but I didn't know what to do celebrating. I was on my knees at one point."

Mitchell played 51 games for Falkirk. This included a very creditable 3-3 home draw v Celtic. His sole competitive goal for Falkirk was the opener in a 2-0 home win v Hamilton in 2009. His goal was a peach free kick from 20 yards. He remained on Falkirk's books until the summer of 2011.

In the second half of 2009/2010 he was loaned to Ayr United. He played 10 league games for Ayr scoring in a 1-1 draw at Raith. This was another free kick gem but this time from 30 yards.
Mitchell played seven games for Scotland under 21s while at Falkirk. His debut for the u21s was when Norway visited Rugby Park in Kilmarnock for a challenge game on 20 May 2008. Mitchell played alongside Ryan Conroy, Graham Dorrans, Robert Snodgrass and Charlie Mulgrew among others. The game didn't go well for the Scots with the Norwegians winning 4-1. Six months later Mitchell was a sub with 10 minutes to go in a defeat in another friendly at home. This time Northern Ireland won 3-1. Mark Millar and Rory Loy were other late Scottish subs in that game.
His competitive debut for the u21s was on 28 March 2009. Things went much better. In a European Championship qualifier away to Albania in Elbasan the Scots were victorious. Chris Maguire scored the only goal from the penalty spot in the 86th min. The Albanians visited Scotland four days later playing in Falkirk. Again the Scots triumphed this time with a 5-2 win.
Then came three games for Mitchell in the autumn of 2009. The first was in the town of Maria Enzersdorf in Austria in September. The home side won by a solitary goal. In October Mitchell and his team mates won 1-0 when Belarus played in Paisley. The last game and heaviest victory of Mitchell's time in the under 21s was way across Europe in Baku. The Scots chalked up a 4-0 win against Azerbaijan in which Loy was among the scorers.
Mitchell left Falkirk with team mate Mark Stewart moving south to West Yorkshire. The two players joined Bradford City. Mitchell's competitive Bantam's debut was on the opening day of the league season in 2011 when Aldershot visited. Two weeks later Mitchell played in a 4-2 win against Barnet in a game that summed up much of the best of Mitchell's game. James Hanson (twice) and Guy Branston scored from precision Mitchell crosses including one from a free kick. Usually a creator rather than a scorer, Mitchell scored for Bradford v Rotherham. Rather than from his trademark right foot this goal was a header.
In another Yorkshire derby Mitchell was involved in a penalty shoot out. The score was 1-1 after 90 mins away at Sheffield United in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy. The tournament rules meant straight to penalties as the tie breaker. The 16th kick of the shoot out went to Mitchell who did the business for his team to win the penalty contest 6-5. Mitchell's beaming delight was matched by the ecstatic City fans behind the goal. Mitchell played 17 games for Bradford including one in the FA Cup, a 1-0 win v Rochdale. He next returned north after one season in England.
It was his next club who were to get the best out of him, Queen of the South. Queens had endured a disappointing season the year before suffering relegation from the second tier. Allan Johnston's first game as boss had been the last of that relegation season, a 5-3 home defeat to champions Ross County. It was Johnston who signed Mitchell with his joining the club announced on 26 July 2012. Mitch debuted in a home league cup tie v Alloa on 4th August. He couldn't have got off to a better start in calmly side footing the opening goal after nine minutes. In a game that was 2-2 with 10 minutes to go, Queens ultimately romped home 5-2.
This was to be a historic season for Queens with Mitchell an excellent cog in a fine QoS machine. And in that 2012/13 season they were a machine. Mitchell brought to the team much that he saw in the player he once was said was his favourite, David Beckham. While undoubtedly Beckham played at a higher level there were similarities in the playing styles of the two; hard work reaped from maintaining excellent fitness and an ability to provide excellent right foot crosses and deliveries. Set pieces were ideal for both players. Queens were a full time side in a league with part time opponents. Johnston set up his team when not in possession to press and pressure opponents. When on the ball he wanted them to play attractive, quick moving and passing football. It worked out brilliantly. Queens racked up win after win against their divisional opponents. It was against teams from outside the division that an indication came of how good Mitchell and this QoS team were together.
Morton were to finish their league campaign as runners up in the division above Queens. Queens visited Morton in the Challenge Cup in August and triumphed 2-1 after extra time. In the League Cup top division Hibs visited Palmerston. With a great result backed up by a superb performance Queens vanquished their more illustrious opponents by two goals to nil. Mitchell's reverse pass allowed Danny Carmichael to cross perfectly for Gavin Reilly to score the second with a close range diving header.
(Mitchell and his team mates celebrate Clark's opener at Ibrox)
The quarter finals of the Challenge Cup brought a visit to Ibrox Park. The Queens bandwagon rolled on. Mitchell and co again played well taking the game to extra time with a 2-2 draw. Ryan McGuffie converted the winning spot kick in the ensuing penalty shoot out. Top division Dundee United visited Palmerston in the League Cup. Credit to the visitors for digging deep to survive a real second half onslaught from Queens to grind out a 1-0 victory. This was Queen's 12th game of the season to date and their first taste of defeat. In December Queens visited Kilmarnock in the Scottish Cup. Again keen to test themselves against top tier opposition, Queens were dealt a body blow within 90 seconds. Stephen McKenna's straight red for a yellow card offence meant it would be an uphill battle. Queens acquitted themselves well despite being a man down in going out with a 2-1 loss. If Queens had kept 11 men on the pitch then who knows if that Scottish Cup run would have gone further.
As Mitchell himself said in December 2012, ""We`re right up there at the top of the table and have had some great battles against Hibs, Rangers, Dundee United and Kilmarnock. Unfortunately we lost narrowly against both Killie and the Tannadice side but we`re still in the final of the Ramsdens Cup against Partick Thistle to be played later this season."
The QoS juggernaut in the league kept trucking forward. Often playing magnificently, Queens could also grind out a win ugly victory if needed. In 36 league games 29 ended in a QoS victory. Of the two league game defeats Queens endured, one was immediately after the title had been wrapped up. Queens racked up 92 points scoring the same number of goals. Queens dished out some real horsings that season. In league games Mitchell and co scored:-
* three goals on seven occasions
* four goals on three occasions
* five goals on four occasions
* six goals on two occasions
(Champagne time at Station Park)
The second of the six goal games was arguably the divisional performance of the season. Queens were miles ahead of their rivals in the table by this stage. Their first chance to wrap up the title arrived on 27 March v Brechin. The feeling of history beckoning was compounded due to pitch issues at Brechin; the game was switched to the scene of Queen's two previous title clinching games – Station Park in Forfar. Queens set about their opponents from the off. Pressure in the first minute led to a free kick in an attacking position on the left. Mitchell duly stepped up and swung over a signature accurate cross. At the back post Nicky Clark was unmarked and gleefully shot home. With Queens already two up (Paton had scored a second), they found themselves with a free kick in a similar position in 18 minutes. Yet another Mitchell delivery caused chaos in the opposition defence. Under pressure Ewan Moyes scuffed the ball for it to spin off his boot for an own goal. A further goal from both Paton and Clark had Queens five up at half time. Reilly scored the sixth in the second half. The players returned to the grandstand after the game to take a bow. Mitchell was heartily at the centre of the champagne celebration.
(Durnan and Holt both know they are watching a set piece maestro. Mitchell unleashes into the Stenny net)
Mitchell chipped in with a couple of goals in the league campaign scoring in two separate games against Stenhousemuir. The first was a superb Palmerston free kick high into the net in a February man of the match performance. Bend it like Mitchell. The second of these goals was similar but at Ochilview in April with another deadly free kick.
(This time it's Mitchell's goal being celebrated)
Only 23 league goals were conceded by Queens in that league campaign for the 92 they scored. Quite simply the Dumfries side were far too hot to live with for their divisional contemporaries. Possibly the most unexpected statistical achievement was in January when Queens appeared on the European form guide on Sky Sports News. Swindon were above Queens and another unexpected team to appear among such celebrated company. Immediately below Queens in the table; PSG, Anderlecht, Barcelona and Benfica. With Mitchell's record v Ajax the Dutch club would have been great opposition for that Queens side. We can dream a little...
(Not many Scottish players have been seen in a table above PSG, Anderlecht, Barca and Benfica. Mitchell and the 2012/13 QoS team have.)
Less than two weeks after clinching the title was the Challenge Cup Final. Queens had been great all season. With perhaps Celtic aside QoS would have genuinely felt in with a great chance against anyone in Scotland. Partick Thistle though were having a great season of their own winning the 2nd tier league title by 11 points losing only four games. It was always going to be a tough contest.
The game was a battle of attrition with defences on top through the normal 90 mins. Queens looked the better side but didn't look like scoring. In the 90th minute Kris Doolan turned away from his marker to force Lee Robinson into a low save to his left. It was from this moment the game fired up the excitement level.
11 minutes into the first period of extra time Clark headed home a rebound from a Carmichael shot. Queens were now looking good. Thistle though forced pressure late in the game. Marc Fitzpatrick had been signed by Queens specifically to play left back in this game with Kevin Holt suspended. Fitzpatrick generally enjoyed a solid game. With two minutes to go though the referee incorrectly adjudged Fitzpatrick to have fouled Christie Elliot inside the box (tv showed the challenge was outside). Aaron Muirhead stepped up looking to score against his home town club from the spot. Lee Robinson saved. With passions running high the Queen's players rushed to congratulate Robinson. Oh dear, things got out of hand. Muirhead and Chris Higgins went eyeball to eyeball. Muirhead responded by putting his forehead into Higgins' nose. Red card for Muirhead. Queens had to survive one minute against 10 man opposition to lift the trophy. It was too much to ask. Thistle attacked again swinging in a cross from the left. Doolan once more escaped his marker and this time hit home from inside the six yard box. 1-1, full time and penalties.
Robinson saved the first he was asked to face in the shoot out (from Stephen O'Donnell). Derek Young had scored his pen for QoS. The advantage though was neutralised when Scott Fox saved Carmichael's effort. Robinson himself scored a penalty for Queens en route to the shoot out being 4-4 at the end of the allotted five each. First forward for Queens in the extended tie breaker was Mitchell. Mitchell slammed the ball assuredly high to the keeper's right to nudge Queens in front. Doolan then found the net again to cancel out the advantage from Mitchell and extend the tie break once more. Higgins went hard and high straight down the middle with his kick meaning Thistle again had to score their kick to remain in the contest. Robinson dived to his right to save from Conrad Balatoni. In less than two weeks Mitchell had earned two winner's medals. He was part of the first ever Queens team to win a same season senior trophy double.
(Mitchell and co make it a double trophy celebration in less than two weeks)
At the end of season PFA Scotland Team of the Year awards six QoS players were selected for the division they had played in. Mitchell was among the six as were Robinson, Durnan, Higgins, Carmichael and Clark. This was a fitting accolade to acknowledge the excellent season Mitchell had given.
More cup excitement followed the season after. St Mirren visited Palmerston as reigning League Cup holders defending the trophy. Queen's knocked out the top tier side with a 2-1 win, all goals coming in extra time.
Queens performed very respectably back in the second tier ending the season in a play off spot. Mitchell brought his influence to bear in the home leg v Falkirk. In a well drilled manoeuvre Mitchell's free kick was headed back across goal by Andy Dowie. Bob McHugh headed home from close range to equalise the game at 1-1. McHugh hit a sensational left foot thunderbolt at the end of the game to take a 2-1 lead away for the second leg. Mitchell didn't play in the return leg when Falkirk won 3-1 with a Blair Alston goal three minutes from the end of extra time.
Mitchell's third season at Queens was impacted by injury restricting him to only a small number of games. He thus played for the Doonhamers 85 times in three years.
He next moved on to Clyde where he was signed by Barry Ferguson. He played 18 games in the first half of the season chalking up six assists en route to Clyde reaching the play offs. However Mitchell stepped away from senior football due to the travel requirements of a full time work opportunity. His last senior game was on 30 January 2016.
Queen of the South FC announced the following on 8 May 2016:-
“Everyone at Queens is saddened to hear of the sudden death of Chris Mitchell who was a double winner with us in 2013. Chris, who scored a penalty in the Ramsdens Cup Final shoot out against Partick Thistle, moved on to Clyde last summer. Our condolences and thoughts go out to his family and friends, of which there are many still here at the club.”

“Rest in peace Mitch.”
Among the outpouring of other tributes at the tragic news Barry Ferguson made the following statement on the Clyde FC website:-
"On behalf of myself, the staff and the players at Clyde I'd like to say a few words about Chris. We're all totally devastated by the news. I signed Chris and got to know him as his manager; he was an important part of our team. On the park he was great for me and he had one of the best set piece deliveries I've worked with in football. In addition to that I can honestly say, hand on heart, I never had a minute's trouble with Chris. He was an excellent professional.”
"He was a great guy around the dressing room. It's sometimes easy to say these things after tragic news, but it's completely true. I was really disappointed to lose him from the squad in January, but I had to respect the opportunity he had in full-time employment. We were both open to the idea of him coming back to Clyde in the future.”
"Our condolences go out to Chris's family and our thoughts are with them. I know that the boys will give it everything in the play-off final this week for Chris, to do him and his family proud."
Football fans who watched Mitch play will remember that sweet right foot and the pin point deliveries. Iain Russell published this pic of he and his friend sharing a joke in a car. Many others remarked on Mitchell not just as a talented footballer but also as a friendly and considerate personality. A guy to be missed on and off the pitch.
Chris Mitchell. 2 July 1988 – 6 May 2016.