MILLWALL midfielder Billy Mitchell has revealed even his own family have been affected by the cost-of-living crisis that is making life tough for millions of people this winter.
So the young Lion was one of the first players to support a new EFL programme targeting fans worse hit by soaring energy, fuel and food bills that are pushing people into poverty .
The "Together — Supporting Communities" campaign was officially launched last week.
Championship club Millwall are doing their bit by holding weekly coffee mornings, as well as providing a food-bank, discounted after-school and holiday clubs and a donate-a-coat scheme.
Yet again, just as they did during the pandemic, it is EFL clubs that are at the forefront of helping the most vulnerable in their communities
Mitchell told SunSport: "I do worry for people. I even worry for my own extended family.
"Footballers are often in a privileged position but that doesn't necessarily mean their families are.
"My extended family have normal jobs and even my mum has to keep an eye on the bills. Things can get tight.
"You get to see it first hand. I speak to my friends and everywhere you turn you see someone somewhere is struggling.
"It's quite evident with this cost-of-living crisis that millions of people are going to struggle and for a club like Millwall to be able to give something back to the community is vital."
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Mitchell enjoyed attending a coffee morning this week to socialise with supporters and learn about their lives.
Even in dark times such an event keeps people in good spirits.
The Lions ace said: "I had heard what one lady was giving her grandchildren for Christmas and another couple who are doing walking football.
"It's nice for people to be able to get out of the house, save some money on their bills and have some tea, pastries or whatever, it's a good idea."
It's quite evident with this cost-of-living crisis that millions of people are going to struggle and for a club like Millwall to be able to give something back to the community is vital
BILLY MITCHELL Millwall midfielder
Mitchell cannot believe that in modern Britain there are vast numbers of people this winter who are having to choose between heating or eating.
It is almost something you would expect from people living in Victorian slums.
And he said: "Its ridiculous — especially as we come to the winter time and it's absolutely freezing.
"It's not right that people should choose between eating and wanting to have a hot bath or staying warm.
"I'm not a politician and don't have all the answers. I'm probably not as well versed as I should be — but all I know is for the club to put something on like this is going to help out a lot of people. That is never a bad thing."
It was EFL clubs that led the way during the dark hour of Covid by helping in their communities and also allowing the NHS to use their facilities to provide vaccinations.
Clubs outside the Premier League are not exactly awash with vast resources and many are having to be careful themselves with their own bills during these crazy times.
But, despite that, Rochdale are providing a food bank and debt advice support service on board their One Stop Bus, Bradford are sending out weekly food packages to families in need and Ipswich are collecting donations of warm clothing through their "Find a Warmer Community" scheme.
Leyton Orient are providing Kids for a Quid and Football for a Five in December at selected games and Cambridge are running a Forever United Cafe twice a week, to provide a warm and welcoming space for people to attend.
Middlesbrough are also inviting individuals into the stadium for a hot drink as well as providing a warm space with free Wi-Fi and a chance to chat.
Bristol City are offering discounted tickets for selected games in January and February while MK Dons are allowing season-ticket holder can bring a friend for free at a selected game in January.
And all this is just the tip of the iceberg. When their communities are in need, EFL clubs are at the front of the queue to help.
Mitchell himself is tireless when it comes to working in the community.
He is currently the Championship Community Player of the Year — but the last person to be motivated by such an accolade.
The midfielder is a great believer in the power of football working for the greater good.
He told me: "I'm not sure we can solve this big a problem but in football everyone can chip in to make it a little bit better.
"There are a lot of EFL clubs and if everyone takes care of their little bit of their community you are going to cover the whole country.
"Hopefully the Premier League can do something too because they have much better facilities and greater financial backing. They can help even more.
"Some clubs will be able to do more than others but if everyone does something it will be valuable in its own little way."
Mitchell loves football at grassroots because "it just feels more real" and often watched non-league matches.
Bromley, Welling and Cray are his usual haunts.
He said: "My dad and I are massive non-league fans. It just feels a lot more real in a sense.
"Everyone aspires to play in the Premier League and it's great to watch the World Cup at the moment but in some ways it all feels like a fantasy world. People can relate a lot more watching their local teams compete.
"Going to football on a Saturday or midweek is a focal point for a lot of people.
"Some people who I've spoken to at the coffee morning, it's what they live for. They go and work on a weekly basis but their whole enjoyment is watching their team play on a Saturday.
"Football offers an escape from the difficult things people are facing and brings happiness … especially when their team is winning.
"I was speaking to fans who were setting off at 3am to watch us up at Sunderland for the 12:30pm kick-off. It's unreal but football is a glue that brings us all together. Whatever happens in life, we all have that common bond."
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