Lewis Miley of Newcastle United looks on during the UEFA Champions League Group F match between Borussia Dortmund and Newcastle United FC at the Signal Iduna Park on November 7, 2023 in Dortmund, Germany.

England’s newest Champions League baller has already out-achieved us all at 17

My mam is shouting through my bedroom door. “Andrew! Are you up?!”

“Yeah! Just getting ready!” I reply, eyes shut, wrapped in a duvet, doing my best impression of an awake person. I absolutely hate sixth form, and I plan on savouring every last moment in my bed, because my bed is not sixth form — my bed is wonderful.

Inevitably, I miss the bus. I am so good at missing the bus. Luckily I’m also quick because I’m seventeen-and-a-half years old, and I sprint through the long grass that runs parallel to the road, and catch the bus at the next stop, greeted by rapturous applause from the other teenagers on the top deck of the bus.

Twenty-five minutes later I’m sitting in a geography class on the outskirts of Durham City, sound asleep once more.

A couple of miles down the road, in Stanley, County Durham, Lewis Miley has just celebrated his first birthday and, for now, he’s not as good at football as I am. That will last for about six months.

For now, Lewis is preoccupied with sleeping, growing, and bright colours. And, truth be told, so am I.

At seven years old, Lewis joins Newcastle United’s Academy. Skip forward a decade and he’s risen so quickly up the football ranks that, if we happened to live in an underwater world, he would be suffering from the bends.

Miley has represented England at under-17 and under-19 level, and would’ve gone to the under-17 Euros with England had he not been recalled by an injury-plagued Newcastle team attempting to ensure their first Champions League qualification since before Miley was born.

No doubt, a disappointment to miss out on an international tournament, but a massive show of faith in him from the Newcastle management, and a sign of things to come.

During the summer I found myself watching Newcastle’s preseason tour of the USA on a grainy and definitely-legal stream. I’m not sure why I was doing that — probably one for the psychologists.

“Bloody hell!” I thought, “Bruno (Guimarães) is playing out of his skin, here.” Gorgeous first touches, stepovers in the centre circle, gliding past opposition players like a smooth ghost. “He’s grown as well. That’s weird. How many people have a growth spurt at 25?”

Turns out Bruno hadn’t had a growth spurt. My extremely-legitimate-and-not-at-all-dodgy stream was poor enough that I couldn’t make out the numbers on the players’ shirts, and I was, in fact, watching Lewis Miley for the first time. 

I’d heard good things about Miley, but I’d never seen him play until then. Jesus H. Christ he’s good, was my conclusion following that out-of-focus preseason game. He’s gonna be massive for us, one day.

Miley grew up twenty minutes from Sir Bobby Robson’s childhood home. He’ll know all about Newcastle United’s history in Europe — about Tino Asprilla’s hat trick vs Barcelona, and Andy Griffin’s goal against Juventus, and Shola Ameobi making Carles Puyol look silly.

Surely, though, he can’t have envisioned stepping onto the pitch for his boyhood club in a Champions League match before he’s even old enough to drink a beer. It doesn’t happen.

To this day, the youngest male to play in a Champions League Final is (ten gold stars to you if you know the answer) Nwankwo Kanu at the age of 18 years and 296 days, for Ajax in 1995.

You’ve got a better chance of being struck by lightning than playing in the Champions League before your 18th birthday. But here we are.

“You ready, Lewis?” Asks Eddie Howe from his technical area. At seventeen-and-a-half, Lewis Miley isn’t fast asleep in his bed, trying to forget about his A-levels and preparing himself to race a literal bus.

Lewis Miley is sat in the away dugout at the Signal Iduna Park, with Newcastle having just gone 2–0 down to a Borussia Dortmund side filled with elite veteran players and promising youngsters.

Miley is being thrown into the action to help Newcastle fight to save this vital game, or, perhaps, to give a rest to weary legs in an extremely depleted first-team squad.

Either way, Eddie Howe trusts Miley to rise to the occasion, and he does.

Miley spends ten minutes plus stoppage time on the pitch, during which time he is taxed with marking the legendary Marco Reus.

Marco Reus is literally twice Miley’s age. Miley would’ve grown up idolising players like Reus, and now he finds himself in direct competition with Dortmund’s beloved Rolls Reus in front of the Yellow Wall and (at least) 3,000 travelling Geordies.

Miley goes about his business with minimum fuss, assuredly spraying passes and looking like one of the most level-headed players on the pitch.

It may have gone unnoticed by many — the game was all but lost for Newcastle before Miley entered the pitch — but Lewis Miley already looks right at home at the very highest level of the game and he won’t even be old enough to vote until the middle of next year. 

In a time when football headlines are ever more sensational, and Twitter is full of angry people debating VAR, this is something that may have just slipped under the radar.

Remember Lewis Miley’s name — It’s better to catch the hype bus before it’s left the stop than it is to sprint after it because you slept in.

By Andrew Martin

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