Teenager Lewis Miley has been told to ready himself for a key role in Newcastle’s midfield as they attempt to continue the fight on three fronts in the midst of an injury crisis.
The 17-year-old turned in an impressive display in his Premier League home debut on Saturday to help the Magpies trounce Chelsea 4-1 after seeing Joe Willock added to a lengthy casualty list with a recurrence of an Achilles problem.
Willock could be sidelined for some time as he awaits specialist advice on the way forward, and with Tuesday’s Champions League trip to Paris St Germain and a Carabao Cup quarter-final visit to Chelsea to come amid a schedule which will see Eddie Howe’s men play 10 more games by New Year’s Day, Miley has been primed for a run in the team.
Asked about his performance against the Blues, Howe said: “His general performance was very good. I thought he showed the composure that we saw during pre-season – I thought he executed a very good pre-season, played very well – and he’s going to be a key player for us in he next few weeks.
“He’s going to have to step up and do what we know he can do.”
Miley played a significant role in the opening goal with a perfectly weighted pass which allowed Alexander Isak to spin and fire home just 13 minutes into his comeback after a month out with a groin injury.
Howe said: “That pass sort of represents him. To have that composure in that moment when you’re so young and thrust into your debut at home, the temptation is to shoot, but he resisted that and the ability to spot Alex, so it was a brilliant pass and also a brilliant finish.”
Raheem Sterling levelled with a beautifully struck 23rd-minute free-kick, but Newcastle skipper Jamaal Lascelles, whose error had led to that set-piece, made amends with a bullet header on the hour before Joelinton capitalised on a rare howler from Thiago Silva to thump home a third.
Anthony Gordon completed the rout after full-back Reece James had been sent off for a second bookable offence, but Miley’s contribution on a day when Howe was without 13 senior players and named three keepers on his bench was one of the major talking points.
Asked if it was easy to forget he is only 17, the head coach replied: “Yes, I think we do because he’s six-foot-two and he’s a man, he looks a man in your presence, and also his maturity. He doesn’t behave like the average 17-year-old.
“But it’s important we do remember how young he is and we look to protect him as well. It’s my job to do that and educate him in the right way on and off the pitch.
“He comes from a very good family who won’t allow him to go over the top in any way. It’s on to the next match for him and us.”
Pochettino was less than impressed with the way his young Chelsea team capitulated on Tyneside, accusing them of putting in a “soft” performance.
He said: “As a team, we need to show a different energy, a different capacity to compete. For me, that is the key.
“The big teams perform every week, every three days, in this way. This is a thing that we need to settle in the team.”