Lewis Miley becomes Newcastle's youngest Premier League goalscorer with opener in 3-0 win over Fulham on Saturday after starting seven of Magpies' last eight games; watch Chelsea vs Newcastle live on Sky Sports Football on Tuesday from 7.30pm
Tuesday 19 December 2023 06:14, UK
Eddie Howe has done his best to temper the hype around Lewis Miley ever since the 17-year-old caught the eye with a performance beyond his years in their 4-1 win over Chelsea last month.
Midfield team-mate Bruno Guimares had not helped matters. "Lewis is a star, he is massive," he told reporters after a seeing the teenager's classy showing in that game close-up. "When I was 17, sorry to use the word but I was s***."
Howe could not hold that high praise against him for too long - Miley is not letting the growing noise go to his head. Another Rolls Royce of a performance in Paris four days later revealed the maturity to match the rising talent Newcastle have been nurturing for some time.
Neither player nor club have looked back. Another starring role against Manchester United followed, and even in defeat to Milan last week, a first Champions League assist.
Even when Sean Longstaff's relegated him back to the bench against Fulham on Saturday, Joelinton's first-half injury offered him another chance to impress. Yet again, he took it with both hands.
Only 24 hours earlier, safeguarding officers had been conducting routine check-ins to make sure that, as an U18, Miley's welfare was holding up in a boisterous Premier League dressing room. It probably was not a long trip.
"The funniest bit about it is the fact he's so young, and it's mad how you can go from checking he's okay one day to being the best player on the pitch the next," said Longstaff, arguably still the last real success from the Newcastle academy.
Few clubs embrace their own like Newcastle, as the statues of Jackie Milburn, Sir Bobby Robson and Alan Shearer outside St James' Park attest. But creating a buzz is one thing, living up to it is quite another. Especially when you do not turn 18 until May.
That debut strike was a moment he will never forget, but what has earned and kept both Howe and Newcastle supporters' faith is Miley's composure and quality on the ball.
"His all-round performances have been so good," the head coach told Sky Sports after Saturday's latest showing.
On his full home league debut against Chelsea last month, the teenager played a quick one-two with Jamal Lascelles to get out of a tight corner before releasing Alexander Isak over the half-way line with a first-time pass. This was five minutes in.
He had been on barely a minute on Saturday when he stroked an ambitious ball across midfield for Emil Krafth and barely two when his pull-back set up Callum Wilson in the Fulham area.
Injuries meant Miley played as a defensive midfielder in his first Premier League start in November, after which Howe admitted he was better suited to a more advanced role.
Given licence to attack against a Fulham side already reduced to 10 men, he showed what his head coach was talking about.
The Durham-born teen does not feel the weight of pressure around St James' Park he understands better than most of his more travelled team-mates.
"At 17, and being exposed regularly to 90 minutes, we've got to do something to not over-expose him," said Howe after his debut goalscoring exploits on Saturday.
"It didn't really work! Credit to Lewi for being sharp enough to come on and take his chance. He really deserves that goal."
The head coach's recent comments and actions have watered down previous concerns over his reluctance to bed in youth, which makes the decision to avoid sending Miley out on loan this summer after an impressive pre-season all the more significant.
Certainly, though it could be argued that Howe's hand was forced to hand him his first two league starts in November, plenty expected him to knock square pegs in round holes over putting his faith in any untested teenager.
This is no ordinary teenager. Even when he signed his first professional deal in May, the normally understated Howe could not resist offering a hint at his potential.
I can only promote players through the academy that I feel are good enough to play in the Premier League. Lewis has got an amazing chance to do that. At his age, he's got all the attributes.
"I only promote players who are good enough to play in the Premier League," he said. "He's got an amazing chance."
It's been quite a few weeks for a player who already held the title of Newcastle's youngest Premier League player when he made his debut, also against Chelsea, in May and who lifted the 'Wor Jackie' trophy, awarded to Newcastle's best young player of the year, in November.
There will be bumps along the way, and talent alone does not guarantee Miley anything in a Newcastle side which will only get stronger over the coming years.
What will stand him in better stead is his enthusiasm to improve, which has long impressed Howe.
It was why the head coach pulled him out of England's U17 European Championships squad in May, before he had even made his senior debut.
"There's huge growth in every area of his game," he later said. "He doesn't behave like the average 17-year-old."
The way Miley has adapted to a Champions League midfield is not like the average 17-year-old either. With his first goal under his belt, the biggest question it begs is how far he can go from here.
Watch Newcastle's Carabao Cup quarter-final at Chelsea live on Sky Sports Football from 7.30pm on Tuesday, kick-off 8pm