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Lewis Miley: 'If you're feeling more comfortable, you're probably feeling more confident'

Written by Tom Easterby

This is all very strange. It has been a bizarre few months for Lewis Miley. Even this, the charade of speaking on tape, his words being taken down for posterity and people holding an interest in them, is all new. "I don't mind it. It's OK," he shrugs. "It felt a bit weird at first, but I feel fine doing it now."

Then there are the pictures with fans and well-wishers, curious and excited about meeting Newcastle United’s newest young hope. That felt odd as well, with "people coming up and saying my name," he adds. "But I'm used to it now." Surely you've perfected your autograph by now? "I've been practising it, yeah. It's actually alright now, to be fair."

There is a contented smile on his face. He has an unrufflable air about him and it extends to his play. Miley has been a measured and calm presence in a makeshift Magpies team of late. First-time watchers of Eddie Howe's side might have struggled to work out which player the 17-year-old rookie is. It has been to his credit that he has performed with a maturity not expected from those his age in his sport.

"It's a bit mental," he says. "I wasn't expecting to play so many games in a quick period of time, to be honest. I've always just tried to treat them like another game, really. That's what you've got to do.

"I feel like I've been doing well. I've just been enjoying it really. That's the main thing you've got to do I think. Just enjoy it and play your way."

Miley says he has never been burdened by nerves. Against AC Milan on Wednesday night, he appeared almost entirely unfazed by the occasion, laying on Joelinton's opener. It was a remarkable performance; a compliment that doesn't even need the frequently-used addendum 'for his age'. He says his approach on matchdays is a simple one. "I'd say just know your job and stuff in the game. That'll take care of itself and you'll be able to enjoy it on the other side." Can you only enjoy games after they've happened? "I don't know to be honest – you probably start enjoying it like in the Chelsea game when we were a couple of goals up, and that's when you start to enjoy it and it feels good." What about before that, or if things don't go quite that well? "You just have to take it in your stride, really, and just be composed."

The Stanley-born teenager believes being a naturally laid-back character helps with the pressures of new fame. He has three brothers – his older brother, Jamie, briefly featured alongside him for United's first team in pre-season at Gateshead – and they all played from an early age. He vaguely recalls going to Old Trafford to watch Newcastle play with his father, Mick, and a friend.

He went to Tanfield School in his hometown. It isn't even a very distant memory. "I enjoyed school, sometimes," he says, with the final word of that sentence perhaps taking quite a bit of strain. "It was a bit boring but I just got through it really." He left after his GCSEs. "I did maths and English, science, and some things that you pick to do, like BTECs. I think I did art BTEC and then French." You picked French? "Yeah, because I didn't like doing any of the other ones, like history and that – I hated it, so I picked French. I think I got a grade 5 in French actually. A grade four is a pass and a grade five is a high pass. I got a distinction in PE and then got a six in art I think."

He passed everything. In a recent piece in the i, some of his former teachers spoke glowingly of him. Miley is keen to return the compliment. "I liked all my teachers – they were all supportive, and when I was going through school obviously I used to come in and out of school for football, and they were all good with us."

He can't have caused them too many problems. His family, too, have backed him, though confidence has never been lacking in the youngster. "They're all buzzing, to be honest, and I think they're buzzing with my performances so far. They think that I've done well, so I've got to keep it up.

"My mum and dad always believed in me. They've said during the years they've always believed in us – and I've always done the same really. I've just kept playing football and got to this position."

Miley often played a year above his age at United's academy. It gave him the sense he was doing well but there was no lightbulb moment where he realised he was going to be a professional, even allowing for his unwavering self-belief. "I've always had confidence, to be fair. Even, say, if I'd had a bad game or something like that, I'd always keep my confidence, if you know what I mean.

"I don't let myself get too high or too low. I just stay in the middle."

Last season, Miley was steadily integrated into the first team squad, culminating in a Premier League debut at Chelsea on the final day. After a bout of glandular fever earlier this year ("my eyes had started swelling – it was crazy") he crept closer and closer to the line-up and finally broke in amid an injury crisis. He has found friends in fellow England youth internationals in Lewis Hall and Tino Livramento, while other local players like Sean Longstaff and Elliot Anderson have offered support. "If you're feeling more comfortable, you're probably feeling more confident," he adds.

When he started the 1-1 Champions League draw at Paris Saint-Germain, he became the third youngest English player to start a game in the competition. The two players ahead of him in that list are Phil Foden and Jude Bellingham. It is sometimes hard to gauge how aware footballers really are of the talk that surrounds them; many players protest that they don't take in anything of what is being said about them. But this is a difficult age in which to be truly ignorant of it all.

"I've been quite aware of it to be fair," Miley says. "My dad was talking to us about it. Not many people get to have this opportunity, playing at the top level for the first time. I've just got to keep enjoying it."

He is aware, too, that things can change at pace. Many players have broken into a first team environment at his age. A relatively small proportion of them have stayed there, at the top level. "You can't really get carried away, if you know what I mean," he says. "You saw some players that have made their debut at such a young age and then they've dropped off. But you've just got to be consistent through the way.

"You've got to play to your strengths, really, and keep working on the things you need to work on."

The next box for Miley to tick will be his first goal. There was a hint of it coming against Manchester United earlier this month when his effort was charged down by Aaron Wan-Bissaka. When it comes, it will be a special moment. But when you're 17, time is firmly on your side.

"Obviously Wan-Bissaka blocked that shot, but hopefully it's coming," he smiles. "Seeing other people score in recent games, it looks like it's a great moment. Hopefully I get that chance to."

This interview is featured in Saturday's edition of UNITED, the club's official matchday programme, for the visit of Fulham. Find out more about the latest issue here.

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