Major decision ahead for Newcastle United star branded 'massive' by Liverpool & Man City target

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A number of Newcastle United players are facing major calls over their futures this summer - and one young talent is near the top of that list.

Just how do you assess the 2023/24 season for Newcastle United?

How is it possible to accurately pass judgement on a season that left an indelible imprint on the Tyneside public with a memorable Champions League win against Paris Saint-Germain, but also contained depressingly predictable defeats to the likes of Bournemouth, Luton Town and Nottingham Forest? Where does the middle ground lie when epic cup wins against Manchester United, Sunderland and Manchester City when error-strewn defeats were grasped from the gaping jaws of victory in losses against Chelsea and Everton?

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This was a campaign that began with the realisation of dreams of competing in the Champions League alongside European football’s elite - but ended with hopes of an immediate return to European competition cruelly dashed by Manchester United’s fully deserved but largely unexpected FA Cup Final defeat against Manchester City. A failure to qualify for Europe did not lie with that Red Devils’ Wembley triumph, but in the Magpies’ struggle to find true consistency and, to deliver a more sympathetic assessment, an inability to escape the cruel grip of a seemingly season-long battle with injuries.

To quantify the latter judgement, Eddie Howe was robbed of the services of the likes of Nick Pope, Sven Botman, Joelinton and Callum Wilson throughout the campaign as Magpies players racked up over 1,900 days lost to injuries. There is also the long-term suspension handed to summer signing Sandro Tonali after the former AC Milan star was limited to just 12 appearances before starting a ban imposed on him for breaching gambling regulations in Italy that will keep him on the sidelines for the opening weeks of next season.

Yet there is one player that flourished for a time and took full advantage at what could be viewed as an unexpected opportunity handed to him by an injury crisis that decimated Howe’s midfield options. During the early weeks of United’s pre-season schedule, the form of 17-year-old prospect Lewis Miley caught the eye as the academy midfielder overshadowed his senior team-mates with composed and controlled performances in friendlies against National League neighbours Gateshead, Scottish giants Rangers and Premier League rivals Chelsea and Brighton and Hove Albion.

A first Premier League start came in a 2-0 defeat at Bournemouth in November; it would be the first of six consecutive appearances in the starting eleven and culminated with the youngster grabbing his first senior goal in a 3-0 home win against Fulham. That game also provided some insight into how Miley’s senior team-mates appreciated the young prospect who was quickly making a name for himself, as Bruno Guimaraes described his midfield partner as ‘a star’ and ‘massive’ for his side.

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The Brazil star was far from only individual to laud Miley, with Magpies legend Alan Shearer suggesting the youngster looked at home in the Premier League and former England star Gary Lineker praising Miley’s confidence and comfort in possession of the ball. United manager Howe also hailed the youngster as he assessed the maturity he had shown during a Champions League draw away at Paris Saint-Germain.

A back injury brought a premature end to Miley’s first full season in the senior setup at St. James’ Park and he will return to pre-season training wondering just what will lie ahead for him. As it stands, the youngster will compete with Brazilian duo Joelinton and Bruno Guimaraes, Joe Willock, Sandro Tonali and fellow academy products Elliot Anderson and Sean Longstaff for one of the three midfield positions in Howe’s preferred tactical setup. There have been suggestions Longstaff may well move on during the summer - but even if his departure should come to pass, Miley will still face a major battle to secure regular football.

Newcastle United midfielder Lewis Miley. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)Newcastle United midfielder Lewis Miley. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Newcastle United midfielder Lewis Miley. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images) | Getty Images

There is an argument to suggest the England Under-20 international is ahead of schedule in his development and is ahead of the curve in his pursuit of a first-team place. However, dropping back into Under-21s football in Premier League 2 risks stunting his development and, on a more personal level, delivering a blow to the player himself on the back of a memorable season. Having recently turned 18 and signing a long-term contract, Miley is facing a big summer and a decision that could prove crucial in what is still a potentially pivotal stage in his long-term development. Could a loan move - something previously ruled out by Howe - prove beneficial for Miley and allow him to develop with regular first-team football in the Championship or elsewhere?

As with many of his team-mates, it seems likely the youngster, who seems certain to have a big future with his boyhood club, will find his short-term aspirations dictated by the transfer activity in and out of St. James’ Park this summer. What is certain is that both Newcastle and Miley may well be facing a big decision over the next stage in the development of a prodigious talent over the coming months.

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