Few 16-year-olds would admit to having family at the forefront of their minds when flying out to represent their country at a major tournament.
But Lennon Miller has a mature head on young shoulders. Perhaps it was the impact of training with 13-year-old first-team players and dealing with issues in his young life that would test those decades more.
Miller – who became Motherwell’s youngest first-team player earlier this season – travels to Hungary this week for the European Under-17 Championships, where Scotland take on France, Germany and Portugal.
His father, former Scottish international striker turned hairdresser Lee Miller, also goes there, both for parental support and as the team’s resident barber. But for Lennon, it’s another trip dedicated to his mother Donna, who died when he was just five.
The midfielder’s determination to make her proud is what drives him to one day try to eclipse his father’s international record.
“It’s a dream come true”
Lennon had no choice but to embrace the football lifestyle with his father starring for Aberdeen at the time of his birth. A bullet was never far when you were growing up.
“It’s guns, football, football, football,” said the 16-year-old. “As far back as I can remember, it’s been football at my feet, football on TV, football everywhere.”
It’s been football at Fir Park since he was seven. A place according to him “ideal for the family”.
Going through the academy and making his first-team debut earlier this season, his trajectory is similar to that of David Turnbull, who happens to be a role model for Miller.
Then-manager Steven Hammell played a key role in his development and had no hesitation in throwing Miller into the deep end on his debut against Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the League Cup and then at Ibrox in the Scottish Premiership.
“I played with the Under-18s the day before the Rangers game and then I was told I was in the squad. To debut at such a big stadium is a dream come true and , hopefully the first of many.”
“It’s an obstacle, okay”
Lee spends more time cutting Lennon’s hair these days, but he’s also not shy about giving him a clip behind his ears.
When he was acting manager in Falkirk, he brought his 13-year-old son to train with men.
Building first-team experiences at such a young age helped shape Miller, who was on the bench in Motherwell’s 2-0 win over St Johnstone on Saturday before joining the youth international squad later in the day.
“It’s a good mix to have, experienced players helping you through games and then people your own age with a similar mentality that you can kind of bounce back on,” he said. “Some of them also play first-team football, so they understand that.”
Miller has had quite the baptism of fire in international football, scoring Scotland’s goal in 2021 with his own-half effort against England at Under-16 level.
Could he try again? “We’ll have to wait and see. The goalkeepers have obviously clocked now…”
One of Lennon’s many goals is to play for Scotland more times than his old man, who is quick to point out any improvements he could make.
“After every game he tells me what I could have done better. He tries to help me but it’s brutal, to be honest,” he laughed. “The target is to get four Scottish caps to overtake him.”
Miller senior better watch his back if his son’s rise continues. This record may just be the next in a long list that her son is breaking.