Danny Mills’ son George has no regrets about abandoning his ‘first love’ to chase glory on the runway

His father played in two European semi-finals, now George Mills wants to make his own mark on the continental stage.

Danny Mills reached the UEFA Cup and Champions League quarter-finals with Leeds in consecutive years at the turn of the millennium. The first of these ties took place against Galatasaray in 2000 and is remembered for the tragic murder of two Whites fans in Istanbul.

Now, more than two decades later, the former England defender is returning to the Turkish city to watch his son – born just a year before that fateful match – in action at the European Indoor Championships.

“My dad comes to all the big events,” says Mills, 23, who will race across Britain in the 1,500m heats on Thursday night. ‘He’s great for helping to reflect on things and talk things through.

‘He has a very logical brain. I train outside the UK now so I don’t see him as much, but I regularly speak to him on the phone before or after races.

George Mills will race for Britain in the 1500m heats on Thursday night

Danny Mills cheers on his son at the UK Athletics Championships in Manchester

Danny Mills cheers on his son at the UK Athletics Championships in Manchester

‘I used to watch videos of him all the time as a kid. Not so much anymore, but he occasionally releases some clips!

‘Soccer was my first love. I did some tests at the gym, but it’s a very difficult sport to get into. Fortunately, I discovered running and I wouldn’t change it for the world.’

Mills’ younger brother Stanley has found success in football, however, and has featured in Everton’s first team this season, coming off the bench in the Carabao Cup at Fleetwood for his debut last August.

‘I go to see it now and I’m like, ‘Holy shit’,’ admits Mills. ‘He can play on the right wing, in midfield, on the left wing. He is a good player.

‘It’s really cool for us to be doing this together. I give him a stick saying they don’t train much, and then he just says, ‘But running is boring as fuck’.’

Mills’ father and brother saw him win selection for Istanbul at the UK Athletics Indoor Championships in Birmingham last month. There, he finished second to Neil Gourley, who broke the British 1,500m indoor record last Saturday, and in Turkey he will also face Norwegian Olympic champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen.

It will be Mills’ second major tournament since he took part in the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade last year – and he is hoping for a better performance.

‘What did I learn from Belgrade? Don’t run when you’re sick!’ laughs Mills, who only finished seventh in his heat last year after battling the flu. ‘It doesn’t matter if you have a senior vest, if it’s not in the right shape, it’s probably better to get it wrong.

‘This time I’m ready to go and I have to get a medal. This is by no means easy. Some of the guys on the European circuit are top athletes. But if you put yourself in the right positions and execute your plan, you never know what will happen.’

Mills was born in Chelmsford when his father was at Charlton, then grew up in Harrogate while Danny played for Leeds. He coached at Brighton Phoenix until last year when he joined On Athletics Club Europe under the guidance of his German coach, Thomas Dreissigacker.

“We are slightly nomadic”, he explains. ‘In the summers, we’re based in St. Moritz, Switzerland. So for most of the winter we are in Dullstroom, South Africa, and will be in and out of Leipzig, Germany.

‘It was a great opportunity to be part of a professional sports team with full-time coaches and physiotherapists. They sold me a dream and fulfilled it until now.

Danny Mills reached UEFA Cup and Champions League semi-finals with Leeds

Danny Mills reached UEFA Cup and Champions League semi-finals with Leeds

‘I think it will help me reach my potential. Without her, it might not have been possible. Now I have all the resources available and there are no more excuses – I need to start performing.’

Mills hopes his new training setup can help him get to the Paris Olympics next summer. However, competition for places in Britain is fierce, with 1500m world champion Jake Wightman among its ranks.

“The GB team is probably the most difficult to form in the world,” adds Mills. ‘You have to be absolutely perfect in every way possible to have a chance.

‘But I think it helps you level up and I hope I’m ready for Paris and make the team. Now I’m at an age where I need to start consistently building teams and putting my name on the board.’

Leave a Comment