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Alex Mitchell has revealed his time at St Johnstone is exposing him to the harsh realities of first-team football in contrast to academy life.

The 21-year-old defender came through the youth ranks at Millwall and had loan spells at Bromley and Leyton Orient before he arrived in Perth for another loan spell last summer.

Ahead of the trip to cinch Premiership bottom side Dundee United on Saturday, where Saints will look to build on their seven-point lead over their Tayside rivals, Mitchell spoke about the challenges of making it as a footballer north of the border.

He said: “I knew it would be really hard here because the standard of opposition is really good as well as the competition in the team.

“It has been a really mentally draining season for me because it has been the toughest. I have had to really push myself. As a person and as a player I am really improving.

“I feel like my mentality is getting better as the season goes on because it is such a ruthless league.

“It is the constant pressure to win games. I have only been playing professionally for two years and have been adapting from academy football.

“That’s why it has been really tough.

“When you are trying to make it you have to look after yourself. I signed a scholarship at Millwall when I was 16 and there were about 10 of us and now I am the only one in that age group left.

“When you are at an academy and in development, it is not about winning at all.

“You could get beat 3-0 but if you think the manager thinks you have had a good game, that’s all that matters.

“Whereas in a football match it doesn’t matter how you win as long as you win and that’s the reality of football, jobs are on the line, you are working for a wage, you are playing for a club which people have supported all their lives.

“That’s the difference. I am getting used to it and the season has been really big for getting used to it.

“I have loved it, I don’t think it is a challenge that I have been losing so far, I feel like I have been doing well.

“Also, off the pitch, living on my own away from home, it is the first season I have done that.

“Obviously that’s been quite mentally tough getting used to that. But as a person and as a footballer, I think I’m growing.”