DAVID MITCHELL may have grown up a Kilmarnock supporter but his knowledge of one Celtic icon rivals any Hoops fanatic.
Mitchell still recalls countless lazy afternoons spent with his grandparents, Harry and Betty, which invariably included a well worn VHS copy of the Jimmy Johnstone Story getting an airing.
They all lapped up the dazzling dribbles, sensational skills and glorious goals of the Lisbon Lion.
And Mitchell knows Hoops-daft Harry would have been bursting with pride at the thought of his grandson lining up against the Glasgow giants in the Scottish Cup.
Harry and Betty have since passed away but Mitchell will never forget the impact they had on his life and career, and the pride they felt at seeing him fulfill his footballing dream.
And while Mitchell will be surrounded by friends and family at Broadwood on Sunday, he is adamant his biggest supporters will be looking down from above.
“A lot of my family were Celtic-daft. My grandad was a huge Celtic man and he was a big part of my life growing up,” recalled Mitchell.
“Whenever him and my granny would come over to look after me, he would put on the Jimmy Johnstone video. That was our thing. He loved Celtic, loved football and he loved the fact that I played football. It’s all he used to talk about.
“He passed away a couple of years ago, so this will be really special. I know just how much it would have meant to him to watch me play against Celtic.
“However, I know him and my gran will be up there looking down on me. Hopefully, I can do them proud.”
His soft spot for the Hoops is far from the only reason this tie means the world to Mitchell.
The 29-year-old readily admits that he considered quitting football during some of his darker days in the gym after suffering a devastating knee ligament injury playing for Falkirk against Dunfermline in October 2017.
Mitchell did not feature in a competitive match for a year and admits that he owes his career to the Bairns physio Ross Grady, goalkeeping coach Derek Jackson and the unwavering support of his nearest and dearest.
And he insists taking his place between the sticks against Celtic will make all the agonising hours of rehab worthwhile.
“There were times – more than once – when I thought ‘I’m not going to be able to do this’,” said a candid Mitchell. “I thought I was done; career finished.
“The feeling that I was never going to kick a ball again was overwhelming.
“But that’s when Ross [Grady], Derek [Jackson], my family and my kids all played a massive part in getting my head straight and making me believe it wasn’t time for me to call it a day.
“I owe an awful lot to a whole host of people. It was horrific at the time and probably the hardest thing I’ve ever come through in my life.
“I could never have imagined lining up against Celtic when I was sitting in a gym every day trying to repair my knee – so I’ll appreciate it all the more.”
Mitchell knew his injury woes were truly behind him after producing a man of the match display for Falkirk in a 1-0 win over Ayr United last January. He made a string of super saves and his knee felt stronger than ever.
However, then-Bairns boss Ray McKinnon swiftly signed Harry Burgoyne on loan from Wolves and Mitchell only played one more game for the club. That hurt almost as much as the ligament damage.
But the former Dundee and Stranraer man now feels fully fit and, perhaps more importantly, fully appreciated by Danny Lennon, the man charged with masterminding one of the biggest cup upsets of all time tomorrow.
“This is probably the most I have enjoyed my football, and a lot of that is to do with the manager and the coaching team here,” added Mitchell. “The gaffer is relentless with his preparation, he believes in us all and his man-management skills are something I really admire.
“It’s something that has gone out of the game with a lot of managers, from my experience – especially last season [under McKinnon]. The man-management side was absolutely not there and it affects people.
“But with Danny Lennon, we have someone who is always there for you, giving advice and he’s just a class act.”