Most 17-year-olds spend their weekends having fun with their friends and weekdays stressing over exams. Newcastle United’s Lewis Miley has spent the last week dominating top European midfielders and showing his quality to the world.
Ask anyone inside the club, and they’ll say Miley’s rise is no shock. His card has been marked for years in the academy, and chances in the first team were always likely to come early. But at this stage in his career, when he is yet to reach adulthood, he is achieving things nobody could have expected, and doing so while taking it all in his stride. The composure and calm nature he exudes on the pitch typifies him off it; Eddie Howe, his manager, says that every good performance is taken in his stride.
Nothing overawes him, in part because of his personality; those who know him say he doesn’t look for the spotlight. But he may need to get used to it, because it is finding him more and more.
On Saturday, he outplayed Enzo Fernandez in the middle of the pitch as Newcastle thrashed Chelsea 4-1 at St James’ Park. The Argentine is seen as one of the best players in his position in Europe, and is certainly among the most expensive. He moved to the Blues in January from Benfica for £105m, just weeks after playing a crucial role in his country’s World Cup triumph in Qatar.
His is a CV that important high praise, and in a difficult first year at Stamford Bridge, he has been one of the most impressive performers. But he is also expected to dictate the tempo of big games, much bigger than a rudimentary away trip to a domestic rival, but he couldn’t get close to Miley, whose simplistic approach to his role afforded Newcastle the ability to play at their highest intensity and overpower Chelsea like they have so many teams over recent years.
On Wednesday night in Paris, his first Champions League start, he showed the sort of composure and patience in possession that seemed to completely evade Manuel Ugarte. His quality can’t be questioned either, but his discipline on the ball wasn’t good enough; he lacked ideas and seemed to rush in attack, a complete contrast to Miley’s performance.
The demands Howe puts on his team, not just in terms of effort and energy but in the specific nature of their jobs, mean that any drop in the level can be fatal to their chances of victory. That was the case against Bournemouth, when Newcastle added to their unwanted record of having never won a game without Bruno Guimaraes. It is his job to set the pace and pull the strings; such characteristics are difficult to replicate, but that game was Miley’s debut, and he still imposed himself, winning the ball well, proactively stepping up the pitch to maintain the press and always maintaining his position to protect against the counter attack.
Without Guimaraes, there was only so much he could do. But the manner in which he has adjusted to the complex needs of Newcastle’s midfield, particularly since the injury to Sean Longstaff in the defeat at the Vitallty Stadium, has been very impressive. A lot of his understanding of the game is natural, and he’s developing his technique and physicality on top of that. It needs to be remembered on both counts that he still has a long way to go; strength will come with age, but all that matters at this point is that he is showing just how high his ceiling is.
Having a player of that potential, doing what Miley is doing at his age, is rare for Newcastle. The club doesn’t have a long track record of quality academy graduates and certainly not one they believe could go to the very top. The world has woken up to Lewis Miley, though; his future is incredibly bright and he seems to have the temperament to match.