The pair were talking at a Palace for Life Foundation event as part of the Premier League’s No Room for Racism campaign.
“They [the pupils] were asking me how I would deal with it [racial abuse] if it happened to me on the pitch,” said Mitchell, after sitting down with students to answer their questions. “I was telling them the truth: it would be hard, because it’s not something you want to deal with in the first place.
“The main thing is keeping your composure. If it happens in school, then tell the teacher. It’s the same thing if it happens on the pitch: tell the referee.”
Ferguson delivered a similar message to the students, emphasising the need to deal with racism with a cool head, however justifiably difficult that might be.
“Racism is a thing kids need to learn about, to understand,” he explained. “They need to understand how people feel, and how it affects people’s lives – and also how to counteract it and how to talk about it. How to fight back without actually fighting back.
“How I would react to it? Not physically. The only person that is going to lose out is me. The best thing is to get it off your chest and talk about it, so that’s what I tried to teach them today.
“Even if I helped one kid out, it means we’re going forwards.”
The campaign is personally important to the players, having experienced racism in an era when there was less emphasis on speaking out.