'A ridiculous drive' - Newcastle owner Amanda Staveley steals march with 'fighter' Paul Mitchell

It was the day Paul Mitchell's world came crashing down. When the former MK Dons captain was left fearing the worst following a seemingly innocuous challenge at Meadow Lane that changed his life and left his career in serious doubt.

It is hard to imagine a more frightening moment for a professional footballer. However, former team-mate Neil Roberts went to see his friend in hospital that night and never forgot how Mitchell refused to give up. The Mancunian duly attacked the first of four gruelling operations on a broken ankle and shattered tibia and fibula.

Mitchell, somehow, managed to return to action in 2008, but the midfielder was ultimately forced to hang up his boots. At just 27 years of age.

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Mitchell's time in football was far from over, though. If anything, the trauma only spurred him on further. So began a journey that has led Mitchell to Newcastle United as the club's new sporting director.

"It's nice to see him get a role like this because it's testament to his determination, resilience and an inner drive that is ridiculous," Roberts told ChronicleLive. "He's a fighter and that will fit with Newcastle. I have no doubt about that."

Roberts is well-placed to comment. The Welshman is one of the few figures in the game who know Mitchell well - going back to their time as players at Wigan Athletic - after the sporting director kept his inner circle deliberately small. Having worked in recruitment, himself, at Manchester City, Roberts has likened Mitchell to former colleague Txiki Begiristain, such is his standing in the game.

"Paul would have been on a lot of lists from a recruitment perspective in that role," he explained. "Amanda [Staveley] has obviously worked very well and very conscientiously with this one because he's had more than enough enquiries about his availability. Once he got himself settled, moving house and getting his family back closer to family in the North West, it was then time to look at what might be out there.

"He will be 100% all-in. He's a family man but once he gets his teeth into something, he's very much, 'If you don't embrace it fully, you don't do the job properly.' He's the perfect appointment in that respect because Newcastle want to see a face and someone that's willing to do the hard yards, and he's done that."

It has been quite a rise. From MK Dons, Southampton and Spurs to RB Leipzig, Red Bull, AS Monaco and now Newcastle.

David Webb, who worked with Mitchell at Spurs and Southampton, as head of elite potential identification and 15-21 talent identification respectively, described it as an appointment that 'signals' Newcastle's intent after landing a sporting director who is 'exceptionally high level' and 'very diligent and very precise'.

Webb also previously served as Bournemouth's head of recruitment during Eddie Howe's time at the club and the Londoner can see how the pair could make a 'really good combination'.

"At Tottenham, even though we competed in the Champions League, we went for players who had high potential rather than the finished article," Webb told ChronicleLive. "Players like Son [Heung-min], [Kieran] Trippier, Dele Alli, who had high ceiling potential that would go on to flourish in a top sporting environment and I'm sure that will be a key thing with Newcastle in bringing in players that Eddie will like. I think there will be a good mix in terms of the potential of the player.

"Mitch is very good at finding players with high potential that are not the readymade articles and have a lot of potential to go forward. He likes certain age groups. If they are younger, there's more time to develop.

"That's the key - players who are hungry, driven, want to learn and develop, want to get better, want to be the best they can be and are willing to drive hard for that success. Those sorts of traits are very similar to Eddie's. They like those types of players."

Webb has since been in touch with Mitchell, who, tellingly, 'got straight back' to his former colleague, and the sporting director has never lost touch with his roots, even catching up with MK Dons chairman Peter Winkelman a few months ago. Winkelman gave Roberto Di Matteo, a future Champions League winner, his first job in management, but said bringing Mitchell in as head of recruitment in 2008 was 'right up there'. In fact, MK Dons still use aspects of the 'fantastic identification network' Mitchell set up all those years ago.

As far as Winkelman is concerned, Newcastle have secured a 'world-class' sporting director who knows the world market 'backwards'.

"Mitch lives and breathes football," he told ChronicleLive. "He's a live it person. When he does the job, that's it. It's seven days a week, 20 hours a day. What he will give you is 150%. That's his mantra. You work hard for what you get and he's certainly done that.

"Whatever it is, Mitch is on it and he fosters that spirit with the people that he works with. That's why it's been no shock to me how well he's done.

"He's behind a lot of players when you go through his career. He's done a lot of work with squads, but not just wasting money. He cares about the money like it's his own and that's another thing that sets him apart."