Written by Euan Wood
Former Aberdeen star Lee Miller says his son may be ready to step up as Motherwell vie to beat the drop.
16-year-old Wishaw-born prodigy Lennon Miller has excited the Fir Park faithful, with former Scotland international and dad Lee positive that the youngster could aid the Steelmen’s survival chances this season.
The Steelmen overcame European hopefuls St Mirren and a high-flying Hearts side in the past week to record back-to-back league victories, ending their winless spell that extended to October of last year.
A resurgent response to caretaker manager, Stuart Kettlewell restored faith in the side that suffered a confidence-draining 3-1 defeat to Championship side Raith Rovers only a week ago.
Whilst the club are yet to announce a permanent replacement for departing club legend Steven Hammell, ex-Aberdeen and Falkirk talisman Lee Miller is confident that placing trust in youth could turn their fortunes around.
“I think that its important to place your trust in a youth players; youngsters play with no fear”, said the 39-year-old.
“Speaking from my experience, my first season Falkirk got relegated, but I was playing in my element, loving life, scoring goals and winning trophies from a personal point of view.
“Obviously, you have to believe in them and feel like they are capable of going into that environment and setup, but it is a no fear aspect to a youth coming through which I think would benefit the team.”
The 16-year-old starlet is already destined to follow in the footsteps of recent Motherwell success stories, David Turnbull and Allan Campbell after shattering a decade-long record at the club.
Coming on as a substitute in Motherwell’s 4-0 Premier Sports Cup demolition of Inverness, Miller broke a 16-year club record only six days after his 16th birthday. A proud moment for his family:
“Yeah it was [a special occasion], we were all there to celebrate it as well which was fantastic. He was on the bench at Kilmarnock, so we were all down hoping fingers crossed that he would be the youngest ever in the SPFL if he made that appearance, but the game never went to plan.
“But, to make his debut the midweek after was incredible and it was a really proud moment.”
The youngest player to ever pull on the famous claret and amber jersey had remained an uncontested accolade since Darren Smith represented the club coincidentally against Inverness on his first outing back in 2004.
With Miller featuring seven months earlier than the record-holding predecessor, his name may have been permanently etched into the history books, but Lee is confident that this prestigious award will not side-track him.
“Lennon’s a very level-headed boy, he always has been. Nothing really fazes him, so I think he has benefitted from being around professionals. He knows to work hard, get on with it and hopefully he’ll reap the benefits from that.
“I think quite a few have had words with him, in terms of keep doing what you are doing, you are doing really well.
“The likes of Stephen O’Donnell, Paul McGinn, Liam Kelly and Ricki Lamie, all of those players have kind of taken him aside and gave him a few pointers here and there, so it has been good, really good.”
Miller’s first Premiership minutes alongside fellow academy prodigy Luca Ross at Ibrox prompted growing interest from clubs both North and South of the border, keen to attract the youngster away from Lanarkshire.
However, the former Scotland striker is confident that Motherwell and their historical youth development model will be the ideal environment for the versatile midfielder to flourish.
“He’s had opportunities to go down South, to go to the Old Firm, but he sees a pathway [at Motherwell]. If you go to for instance say Liverpool, and you’re playing 19s, 20s, 23s, reserves; you are not touching the first-team. You’ve got to be an exceptional talent, Lennon knows that and understands that he needs to work hard.”
The Lanarkshire outfit have a prolific record of developing youth talent, with David Turnbull’s club record-breaking transfer to Celtic promoting the positive culture at the club, and Lee praised former manager Steven Hammell who noted his intention to play the youngster earlier if it was possible.
“I think Steven Hammell said that if there wasn’t an age limit, Lennon would’ve made his debut before that, he would’ve made it at 15. That speaks volumes for him as a person and as a character.
“They’ve got a proven record of giving youngsters a chance, letting them flourish, and allowing them into the first-team environment. David Turnbull’s a prime example.
“Turnbull has been a massive success at Motherwell and I think taking David as an example, a very strong-minded character with his injury and he managed to come back and kick on.
“Learning you have to deal with injury and getting to a mental state where you can deal with it. I think that is important as well.”
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