When thinking of ways to describe Kenny Miller and his time at Rangers, only one word springs to mind – ENIGMA.
During 3 spells, he has pretty much done it all with the club; Old Firm Goals, Cup Finals, Goals in Europe, Last minute winners. You name it. Yet some are still not convinced. Is it because they still don’t rate him as a footballer or more than likely the fact he played for THEM.
Does his brief spell at Parkhead mean his legacy can never really be fully acknowledged? Without THAT move, is it possible to consider Kenny Miller a Rangers legend? Or should he still be considered one?
In January 2006, Miller made the bold decision to sign a pre-contract with Celtic Football Club, joining in the summer, following a hit and miss career down south at Wolves.
At the time, nobody was that overly bothered, or surprised. It was relatively well known that Miller came from a Hibs supporting family in East Lothian and had no real allegiance to either Old Firm club. He also had a frustrating first spell at Ibrox.
Having joined for around £2 million from Hibs in 2000, Miller mostly played second fiddle to the likes of Tore Andre Flo despite starting well – scoring 10 goals in 14 games (famously netting 5 in one game v St Mirren).
Miller moaned at the time: “I knew that even if I had scored a hat-rick in every game I still wouldn’t have got a game.”
Was the motive behind Miller’s move to Celtic a chance to make up for a somewhat underwhelming period at Rangers? Perhaps. Or was he simply a player wanting to play Champions League football, win trophies and get his career back on track.
If signing them wasn’t bad enough, his first goal, in typically Miller fashion came against us in a 2-0 Old Firm defeat. What happened next makes it impossible for some fans to accept Miller as a Rangers great. Caught up in the Old Firm frenzy, Miller ran right over to the distraught Rangers end in the green and white hoops as his new supporters taunted us all around. From my memory, and watching the goal again, he did not slap the Celtic crest as some will claim. Nevertheless it was cardinal sin and the thought of him signing for Rangers again once never mind twice was unthinkable.
Fast forward 10 years to now and Kenny Miller is a somewhat symbolic figure in this young and exciting Rangers team. At 36-years-old, he has just picked up the SPFL Championship player of the month award for January, scoring 5 and assisting 3 from 4 games. His legs may be getting slower and his first touch may not be as sharp, but his performances have still been excellent for the most part.
It’s acknowledged that Kenny is the ultimate professional on and off the park. In a career that has seen him play in the constant spotlight, to my knowledge he’s never been involved in off field antics that he’ll look back on with regret. On the park, he isn’t recognised as someone associated with diving, cheating or fighting.
James Tavernier said in a recent interview: “Kenny has great discipline on and off the park. He’s always first out at training and in the team meetings early. He does things professionally. Everyone looks up to him and that’s the way it has to be.” This tells you everything you need to know. The younger players idolize him and the older players respect him, a seasoned international footballer and generally top athlete.
“YOU can stick your Kenny Miller up your Arse.”
Only Kenny Miller could have made that move in the summer of 2008. With Rangers fresh of the back of European heartache in Manchester and a gruelling title run which was lost, Walter Smith, against the wishes of man fans, decided to bring Kenny Miller back to Ibrox and Rangers. When he was first linked back, a large section of Ibrox descended into the chorus “You can stick your Kenny Miller up your arse.” Surreal thinking about it now yet some probably still see the chant as vindicated.
“Kenny knew exactly what he was walking back into when he shook hands with Walter on the deal. And he had the confidence in his own ability to win those supporters back around. Seven years on, it’s fair to say that he is firmly back in the Rangers family”, said Barry Ferguson.
It didn’t take him long to win us over. We are a fickle bunch after all. Goals win games and there are no better games to win than at Parkhead in the Old Firm. As soon as Kevin Thomson’s curling cross to the back post was air bound, the whole of Scotland knew what was going to happen next. Cue removal of the “You signed Kenny” banner hoisted up by the home support.
Miller said: “We won three leagues plus cups in every year, so I don’t think we could have asked for much more. But that was a big moment when they accepted me back.”
Starting 27 games domestically, Miller helped Walter Smith earn delver the first title in three years, contributing 10 goals and 13 assists. Not prolific in front of goal but Miller did form a great partnership with Kris Boyd which was crucial to the success over the Smith years. (Part 2)
Miller and Boyd fired Rangers to a second successive league flag season 2009/10, Miller hitting 21 goals and assisting 12. The following year, Miller departed the club in January to join Turkish side Bursaspor but remarkably still managed to finish the season as Scotland’s top goal scorer. His move to Turkey was greeted with a mixed response. Some were aware of the fact money was running out and with Jelavic coming back from injury and a prolific Steven Naismith in the team, the league could be won without Miller, which proved to be the case. Miller’s contribution to that title win cannot be underestimated. Without his goals in the first half of the season we could have been too far behind Neil Lennon’s Celtic to catch up.
Walter Smith’s trust in Miller was evident throughout their time together. Every big game, Miller would be given the nod in the lone striker role, with Kris Boyd usually making way. Smith was fully justified in doing this. Miller proved to be the ultimate big game player. His goals against Celtic, home and away gave the Rangers fans some days we’ll never forget. His Cup final winning header for 9 man Rangers agasint St Mirren at Hampden. His goals at Easter Road, Hamilton, Pittodrie – all brilliant.
So Kenny Miller – a Rangers legend or not?
He’s never going to be an an Ally McCoist, Nacho Novo, or even an Andy Halliday in terms of his relationship with the fans but his record of big game moments, trophy winning achievements and desire to make amends puts him right up there with some Rangers greats, especially in modern times.
The word legend can be branded about these days maybe too often but Miller genuinely has worked wonders for the club. He has netted 88 goals for the club, more than Hall of Fame inductee Mark Hateley having played roughly the same amount of games. Obviously you could say Hateley played against better players but he also played in a better team.
Overall Kenny has won 5 major honors with the club. Not that many in comparison with some legends but winning 3 titles in a row is a fine achievement.
It’s likely that Miller will take up an official coaching role with the club soon enough as he’s already been involved with the under 20’s set up and speaks positively about management.
But for now, the king remains on his throne.