From the age of nine to 17, Mitch Mullins was at Chesterfield, a club that was in his blood after both his dad and grandad had played for them.
Indeed grandad Gerry Clarke is still revered as a legend at Chesterfield, where he was captain and made 382 appearances in the 50s and 60s.
Clarke was also coach at Mansfield Town when they won the old Third Division title in 1977 under Peter Morris, and was even once recruited by Brian Clough during his ill-fated spell at Brighton.
Mullins, now 23, was on the brink of following in the family footsteps when he suddenly lost his appetite for football.
“I wasn’t enjoying my time at Chesterfield any more and I wasn’t playing well, so I handed in my notice,” he recalled.
“I was getting up in the morning and thinking: I don’t want to be there. I had lost all my enjoyment.”
Mullins took an interest in coaching but, as a player, he drifted into the non-league game and helped Glapwell win the Central Midlands League. But then came more misery when he tore a cruciate ligament in his knee as a 19-year-old at Rainworth Miners Welfare, sidelining him for two years.
It’s been a long road back, but Clipstone have provided the sanctuary he badly needed. Not only is a key member of Dave Hoole’s young and ever-improving squad in the East Midlands Counties League as a consistent midfielder. Mullins is also on track to complete a physiotherapy degree after a four-year part-time course at Salford University.
“I am loving it at Clipstone,” he said. “We made a shaky start to the season, but the team have bonded and are playing for the manager. We have started to click, and the chemistry is there.
“It might take a while before the maturity and experience come through, but the quality is there. The players just need more experience of men’s football.
“I am enjoying my Saturdays again now, and I think we can push on next season to finish in the top four or five. We have a really good set of lads.”
The only downside for Mullins is that he sustained another injury to the same knee before Christmas. And he was just about ready to return when the coronavirus pandemic brought the season to a premature end.
However, he has plenty to look forward to once he has secured his degree and will be looking to land a physio’s job within football, again following a similar path to 53-year-old dad Mark, who is a sports therapist at Matlock Town.
Mullins said: “It has been a long course, and I will be glad to graduate.
“I don’t come from the most academic of backgrounds, so it has been difficult and I’ve had to knuckle down.
“But the PFA have helped me with funding from my days at Chesterfield, and I would recommend the course to anyone.”
His time at Chesterfield was also recalled when he did an enjoyable placement at the club as part of the course, working with the physios, academy and youth team.
However, those Spireite days are well behind Mitch Mullins. Clipstone are his team now, and it’s onwards and upwards again for a footballing career that has been well and truly revived.
Thanks to Stephen Thirkill, Chad Sport for the article.