GOALKEEPER Alex Mitchell says there were a number of factors in his decision to join Blyth Spartans from Scottish League Two side Annan Athletic.
The 30-year-old became Michael Nelson’s sixteenth summer signing after putting pen to paper on a one-year deal at Croft Park.
He arrives with plenty of experience having come through the ranks at Carlisle United before enjoying a successful spell in Scotland with Gretna, Queen of the South and Annan.
However, the Cumbria-born player is no stranger to coming up against Spartans and sampling the Croft Park atmosphere, as he did during the 2015/16 season for Workington Reds.
Mitchell watched on from the bench as Blyth beat Workington 3-0 in Northumberland. The pair then met again less than a month later in the Northern Premier League play-off semi-finals.
“It was an absolute thriller,” remembered Mitchell, as the visitors ran out 4-3 winners.
“First of all, we played Blyth in the league and Robbie Dale scored from the halfway line! I was on the bench and watched that goal fly in.
“But in the semi-final, I played and I just remember it being one of the coldest nights ever – and it was only the end of April!
“The game was really good but the atmosphere, from an outsider’s point of view, was quite hostile.
“It’s a fantastic ground but as an opposition player, it can be very intimidating.
“I’ve spoken to the management and the goalkeeping coach and they’re hopeful of getting big crowds this season.
“Hopefully we’ll make it a real tough place to come.”
During his time at Annan, Mitchell made over 160 appearances but perhaps the greatest accolade was his inclusion in the supporters’ team of the decade.
He added: “I don’t think it’ll register until I finish playing.
“There are a few really good goalkeepers that have played for the club on loan from Celtic and Rangers.
“It’ll be something I hold on to forever.”
And while Annan will always remain close to the goalkeeper’s heart, the chance to join Blyth was too hard to turn down.
“The interest kind of came out of the blue,” Mitchell admitted.
“I got recommended and when my name was passed on I thought ‘brilliant’ but I thought nothing of it at the time.
“But towards the end of my time at Annan, it snowboarded a little.
“Once there was interest and an offer was put in place, my heart was set – I wanted to join Blyth Spartans.
“I jumped at the opportunity and I’m really looking forward to it.”
He added: “There are lots of factors as to why I joined the club.
“The experience of playing Blyth in the semi-final, it just felt like a proper, well run, club. A one that is together and pushes in the same direction.
“I had a little look at the league table from last year before Covid struck again and I saw the club was towards the bottom.
“I’m sure that’s not where the club wants to be.
“The signings the manager has made shows intent. There are a few lads who should be playing in the league above, if not in the EFL.
“I’m 30-years-old now so I hope to add experience.
“I’ve had a few play-offs finals with Annan and Workington but never got promoted so I’m desperate to hopefully do that.
“I’ll do everything in my power to help Blyth.”