Miles Leaburn is one of the hottest young properties in League One, but that doesn’t mean that he gets out of household chores.
The 19-year-old striker scored his 10th goal of the campaign, his first in senior football, in Charlton’s 1-1 draw with Wycombe on Saturday.
A broad smile breaks across Leaburn’s face at the mention of the fact he is the teenager with the most goal involvements in the Football League – nine goals and two assists.
And he is also the youngest to score at least 10 times in the current campaign. Team-mate Jesurun Rak-Sakyi, on loan from Crystal Palace, is second on that list with Arsenal duo Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli next on that particular chart.
Leaburn’s breakthrough season has been nothing short of a revelation. Injuries to Chuks Aneke may have aided his minutes but he has started ahead of Macauley Bonne and Jayden Stockley, sold to Fleetwood Town in January.
“I thought I would mainly be in the U21s and establishing myself as the number one there, maybe try and sneak on the bench or as the 19th man in the squad in the latter stages of the season,” Leaburn told the South London Press.
“I was surprised to be going on the Spain pre-season tour. As soon as that happened I thought ‘this is my chance – I have to take it and if I do well I can maybe be in and around it’.
“To be in the squad from the first game, it was exciting. I was more proud of myself that I was able to do what I did in pre-season. I proved I can be in and around the first team.”
The Leaburn name carries resonance in SE7. His dad Carl also led the line for Charlton and made 376 appearances in 11 years. Pressure.
But he came off the bench to plant a powerful 90th-minute header home to seal a 2-2 draw at Accrington Stanley on the opening day of the season.
The next morning his mum Tracey, long-serving head of player care at the club, had her son helping to cut down a tree in the family’s front garden.
Leaburn’s scoring figures might have swollen this season, but the same can’t be said of his head. He talks with self-assured confidence about his ability, but not in a boastful way.
“I’ve always been around people – if they are doing well – they wouldn’t go around flashing it, from my family to my close friends,” he said.
“Everyone is grounded. Even if they did something amazing, they would get their praise but not go over the top with it. I’m the same way. Even if I’m doing this well, it wouldn’t make me change how I act towards anyone or in myself.”
Leaburn was with Charlton, Arsenal and Chelsea before opting to sign for the latter at the age of nine – playing a number of different positions before settling as a forward.
Contemporaries at the Blues included Bayern Munich attacker Jamal Musiala, Juventus’ Sam Iling-Junior and Harvey Vale.
Two days after being released by Chelsea, then 16, he was back with the Addicks as he assessed his next step. Academy head Steve Avory had never hidden his long-standing desire to land Leaburn.
“Mum got it sorted straight away,” said Leaburn. “She wanted me to get back out at other clubs, so I’m not dwelling on it and getting upset.
“I had a few weeks trialling here and then I went away and trialled other places – then Covid hit. I had to make a decision where I wanted to go, and I picked Charlton.”
Tracey said: “Even when he was at Chelsea I said I wanted him at Charlton at 16 – this is the pathway through for him. If you fall off a horse then you get straight back on.
“We didn’t want Miles to say in the future ‘oh mum, or dad, you made me go to Charlton’. It was more a case that there were 24 clubs interested in you, we’ve whittled it down to five. Ultimately the decision is yours. He tried these other clubs out but his heart is here.”
Leaburn has played 33 times for the Addicks in the current campaign – only an ankle injury, which ruled him out for two months, impeding that total being even more impressive.
He answers instantly when asked about the biggest lesson he has learned since his promotion to the first-team set-up.
“Physicality. Having to use my body all the time. At the start of the season I was playing on the wing more, so I’d have more time on the ball.
“When I was moved centrally I can remember my first start, I think against Forest Green, and it was an eye-opener. The contact you are having is so much more. I was going for the ball and he (the marking defender) is already on top of me. By the time I’m having my first touch, it is bouncing off of me.
“Now I’ve learned all that stuff so that when the ball is coming into me I’m backing into him or making sure I’ve put him off before I get on it.
“I use my body so much more now, in these latter stages, than I did at the beginning.”
His progress is a source of pride to his parents.
“I went on 24 tours with him at Chelsea through the years,” said Tracey, who has helped hundreds of players settle into new surroundings at Charlton.
“Knowing that pressure of taking a step into senior football – the whole fanbase and with Carl’s name on it – it’s a worry.
“The first few games I was shaking and I lost my head. I was thinking ‘oh my god, is he going to do alright? What is he going to do if he makes a mistake? Are people going to boo him?’ I haven’t had to worry about any of that. He smashed it.
“We’re enjoying his journey as much as the fans are, because we’re seeing him progress.
— TJ Leaburn (@TraceyLeaburn) March 26, 2023
“Yeah, we know he has got talent. But he has also had hard times, with his growing and nearly being 6ft 6ins – it’s a hell of a lot – and he’s still so young.
“To see him progress like this, I could literally cry how proud Carl and I am in him. He has blown us away. You worry, because he is so young. He doesn’t feel the pressure. I say: ‘Are you alright son?’ and he says: ‘You need to worry about yourself more’.”
It is a family affair.
“My mum is very, very good at what she does,” said Leaburn. “There is stuff that sometimes you say a dad can’t do, it’s like a mum thing, she is really helpful at giving me support.
“My dad is more helping me with the football. My mum does that as well, but she helps with the encouragement.
“I’ve seen some (of his dad’s goals). Most of the time from when Charlton repost them, from all the years ago. I see some similarities.”
Leaburn has produced all types of finishes. Saturday’s was a close-range tap-in from Albie Morgan’s driven cross.
But there have also been impressive strikes from further out as well as using his physical attributes to overpower defenders.
“In my U18 season I didn’t score as many headers as I should, for my height,” said Leaburn.
“But this season I feel like I’ve done it a lot better. At first I set my target around trying to get double figures. Now it is just trying to push on to around that 15 mark.
“Different people deal with pressure in different ways. I guess I’m one that takes it in my stride. If you let it weigh on you too much it will just end up affecting your performance.
“You can only do what you can do.”
And what Leaburn is doing is more than just fine. He did not have a footballer he idolised growing up.
“Not really, because no-one was really my type of player,” he said. “I used to watch people like Romelu Lukaku and Diego Costa, to see what they did.
“Recently Erling Haaland is my type of striker. He’s big, physical, strong and quick.
“I try and take what he does and apply it in my game.”
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