LEE MILLER: Remember Him? A Career Retrospective!

For the first two editions of ‘Remember Him?’ we’ve stuck to revisiting the careers of now retired players. Today is an exception however, as we look back at the still ongoing career of 35 year Livingston striker Lee Miller – 11 clubs (6 Scottish), over 100 career goals and three Scotland caps, it feel almost rude not to look back at Miller’s time in football.

Miller, similarly to many in this series, can be described as a journeyman. His early days in Scottish football tell a familiar tale – transfer requests, runs in with the police and speeding fines – but as many may already know, or will learn from this article, Miller has been highly praised for his bravery in dealing with loss and speaking publicly about it.

A striker who on his day could be a real handful, Miller doesn’t have a highly decorated trophy cabinet, nor was he a key member of the national team – but he has certainly had his moments and achieved plenty to be proud of.

Career Timeline

Starting out at Falkirk, Miller made his debut initially in 2001, although it would be the 02-03 season where he really began to make his mark. Pairing up in a partnership with player-manager Owen Coyle, Miller was awarded the league’s ‘Young Player of the Season’, while Coyle won the ‘Player of the Season’. The pair’s goals helped Falkirk to ease to the league title, although unfortunately due to the clubs Brockville Park not meeting SPL criteria the club was not promoted.

Possibly due to the prevention of the clubs promotion, or because of interest from elsewhere, or perhaps a combination of both, Miller would request to leave the club in the summer of 2003. This was amid interest of multiple clubs, with Aberdeen apparently having a bid rejected for the striker. Of course he would eventually join the Dons but in July 2003 Miller signed for Bristol City, costing the English club 300 thousand pounds. City at that point played in the English Football League Division Two (Now League One).

Things started well for Miller in Bristol, scoring on his debut against Notts County – a team he’d later play for – in a 5-0 victory for City. It was eight games and well over a month later before Miller would score again, netting against Queen Park Rangers in a 1-1 stalemate. It was another goalless period following that strike for Miller, however he was getting regular game time.

The year ended well for the former Falkirk man. Four goals in as many games in a period between mid-November and mid-December brought his tally to six for the season, which wasn’t too bad for a twenty year old having just made his first transfer.

However, the striker would score just two more times in the remainder of the season, bringing his total for the campaign to eight in 42 – not awful but obviously a little bit short of the mark for an expensive signing that a team chasing promotion needed.

Having narrowly missed out on promotion via a loss in the playoff final, City were tasked with ensuring a jump to the Championship in the next season. Miller was retained but things clearly had to become a bit more productive for the Scotsman to stay much longer at Ashton Gate.

No goals in six games to begin the season saw Miller hardly get near the pitch, other than one cameo appearance towards the end of 2004. This in turn led to the striker being transfer listed by the club. The asking price was set at £50,000 which would have been a bit of a denting loss for City. No deal could be struck permanently so instead Miller joined Hearts on loan in the 2005 January transfer window.

This move back north of the border was proven to be a good thing, both for Miller and his loan club Hearts. The striker scored on his debut – something he was beginning to make a habit of – against Dundee United – scoring against a team he’d play for in the future was also something Miller was making somewhat of a habit of.

Hearts will have been disappointed with their fifth placed finish in the 04/05 season, but a return of eight goals in 18 games for Miller – the same amount he managed in 42 for Bristol – was certainly a highlight. Having lost manager Craig Levein to Leicester City earlier in the campaign, it was John Robertson that brought Miller to Tynecastle. Robertson was dismissed following the seasons end but new boss George Burley still wanted to obtain Miller on a permanent deal.

Hearts weren’t the only team in for Miller – both Dundee United and Aberdeen were also in for the striker. It was United that, somewhat surprisingly, nabbed the player on a permanent basis for a fee thought to be around the 225,000 pound mark.

Miller was forming somewhat of a habit of managing to do two things, score on his debut and scoring against sides he’d later go on to play for. His stint at United was no different as he endeared himself to the Tangerine faithful from the off – scoring once in a 1-1 draw at Tannadice on the opening day of the season.

The former Bristol City man would end up playing just one full season for the club, and ultimately with the way he moved on, cost them a whole lot of money.

Everything seemed perfect as his first month though, five games in, with a ratio of a goal a game and he’d grabbed himself an assist too – he was looking an astute buy for United.

However over the remainder of the season, Miller would not match his goalscoring form – scoring four more times in far more games, although he didn’t triple his assists. Ending the season with 9 goals and 3 assists in the league – for a club that finished ninth, level on points with second bottom Dunfermline and tenth placed Falkirk – that wasn’t a bad return from their summer buy.

Nonetheless, not scoring again after a double against Livingston in early March – going eight games without a goal (Although spending most of these injured) probably didn’t make it and easy return for the new season.

The striker did begin the season with United, although all four times he started on the bench – coming on for unsuccessful cameo appearances in three of those games – despite nearly notching double figures the season before, clearly Miller wasn’t first choice – what was to follow could suggest it maybe had more to do with his own attitude, or how he got on with others at Tannadice.

Miller’s next move would come through a little bit of controversy – he had refused to play a reserve match for United – so in August 2006, he finally got that move to Aberdeen, on a free transfer. Aberdeen had come in for the striker multiple times, and they finally had their man.

At the time, the BBC said: “Dons boss Jimmy Calderwood has long been an admirer of the player and had attempted to sign him previously.”

Miller’s first season at Pittodrie wasn’t exactly a raging success. The club had other striking options, such as Darren Mackie, Chris Maguire and Steve Lovell – although Miller still managed 26 league appearances in his debut season in the Granite City. Just three times Miller found the net that season – all of them coming before December. That club did however, manage to qualify for the UEFA Cup.

The pressure was understandably on Miller as he went into the 07/08 season – and clearly Miller was ready to thrive under that pressure. The strikers output really improved as he hit 11 goals, with another 5 assists in the league season.

In addition to this, Miller’s Aberdeen progressed through the group stages of the UEFA Cup – playing the likes of Atletico Madrid – to then play in the last 32 against Bayern Munich. While Miller did not score in any of the European games, it will quite clearly have been one of the highlights of his career at that point.

Miller scored against the likes of Hibernian, Celtic and Rangers twice, as Aberdeen finished 4th. Interest was beginning to gather around the striker, but Aberdeen manager to tie him down with a 2-year-contract extension following the season.

Miller hit double figure goals the next season as well, with Aberdeen again finishing fourth – securing a European place this time – and had clearly become one of the top players for the Dons.

Things were about to go downhill for everything and everyone as far as Aberdeen were concerned as Calderwood left the club at the conclusion of the 08/09 season, with Mark McGhee has replacement.

The dons were embarrassed as Czech side Sigma Olomouc knocked them out of European competition and went on to struggle for the beginning of the league campaign. To make things worse, Miller only scored three times in the first half of the season.

Gordon Strachan had taken over at Middlesbrough, and was building his own mini SPL team – so of course he was after Miller. In January 2010, the striker’s time at Aberdeen came to an end. Joining the English Championship side for £600,000 – a fee, which combined with other figures the Pittodrie side were receiving, was angering Aberdeen supporters, who felt they were letting players go for less than they could have gotten.

Miller was pleased to join Strachan at the Riverside and said this about Strachan bringing in so many Scottish lads:

“You can never tell what is going to happen until the season unfolds. But you know exactly what you will get from every guy the gaffer has brought into the Boro dressing-room.

“The likes of Barry and Mick are bringing out the best in some of the other players here

“I started my first game in the draw at Ipswich last weekend and you could see the spirit in the dressing-room at half-time, you could hear it in the gaffer’s team talk.”

Unfortunately for Miller – he spent the majority of his time on the bench for the remainder of the 09/10 season and didn’t score his first goal for his new club – he never would.

It just got harder in the 10/11 season for the striker – he played just seven minutes of first team league football in the first half of the season, and after Strachan’s departure in October 2011, it was quite clearly felt Miller would depart – although it was only a loan Miller could secure, which would become a theme for the Scotsman for the rest of his time in England.

In November, Miller would be loaned out to League One side Notts County – He scored twice (One in each of his two final games) before moving again in January.

Championship side Scunthorpe United clearly saw merit in Miller, loaning him until the end of the season. He’d only score once in his stint with the club.

Miller would earn a permanent move in the summer – He returned to League One, signing for Carlisle United for an undisclosed fee (certainly a lot less than the 600k he’d had Middlesbrough spend on him a year and a half earlier.)

Miller would go on to make just under 100 appearances for the club – making them the team he’s played for the second most, behind Aberdeen.

Miller enjoyed his most prosperous season of his career – at least stats wise – in his first season at Brunton Park. He scored 15 goals – including one in the FA Cup – and grabbed a further 9 league assists.

Miller may have felt slightly aggrieved that the club ended up missing out on the playoffs by four points – he certainly did his bit. Injury kept Miller out of the final five league games, and his final goal of the season came in March – a fit Miller likely would have strengthened the teams promotion push – they won just one of their final seven games of the season.

The 12/13 season wasn’t as successful for Carlisle, but Miller managed some decent personal achievements despite struggles with injuries. The club finished 17th, Miller still managed nine goals, even after missing 23 league games through an injury.

Miller was named the club’s captain in January, showing just how important he’d become in a short span of time.

The following season represented another fall for Carlisle, Miller still managed five goals and 3 assists, which again was a fall from the previous season – and he stayed fit far more often during the campaign. Although two red cards had him serve suspension in five games. The club were relegated to League Two – five points adrift of safety – and Miller was released, along with a medley of other first team players.

While Miller surely will have been disappointed to see the club go down, it could be argued he was one of the better performers and could be justified in feeling like he’d tried his best – after all, the striker had 44 goal contributions (goals and assists) across 3 seasons – certainly not relegation form.

The 14/15 season saw the striker return to Scotland. Having already played for four other Scottish clubs, Miller made it five – joining Kilmarnock.

It wasn’t particularly a season to remember for Killie, or Miller. The club finished tenth, five points clear of the relegation play-off space in a season that can only be described as uneventful when compared to where Killie are nowadays.

Miller would only score once for the club, against St Mirren in March. This was despite overs twenty games across all competitions, with Miller evidently unable to take his goal scoring from produced at Carlisle back North of the border.

The under-par season resulted in another release for Miller – who would then go on to re-join his first club, Falkirk.

Falkirk, under Peter Houston, had been knocking on the door of promotion back to the Premiership and had clear ambitions that with Miller, they could do just that – despite competing in a very difficult Championship, which included both Hibernian and Rangers.

You could certainly see in Miller’s first season back with the Bairns that the aim of promotion was certainly possible. Miller scored six times, notching another five assists as Falkirk finished second. Rangers won the league but the Bairns finished ahead of Hibs on goal difference.

They’d then knock Hibernian out of the promotion play-off, with Miller scoring at Easter Road, before agonisingly giving up a firs-leg lead to see Miller’s former side Kilmarnock beat Falkirk 4-0 in the return leg at Rugby Park – retaining their Premiership place, and sentencing Falkirk to another season in Scotland’s second tier.

It seemed only a matter of time before Falkirk did eventually gain promotion, but this was probably as good as it would get – at least for Falkirk, not Miller.

Falkirk would again finished second the next season – 11 points behind Champions Hibs, who improved greatly, but three points ahead of recently relegated Dundee United – once again entering the Play-offs with great ambition.

Miller had once again assisted five goals, scoring another nine as he got back to some of his best form. He wouldn’t score in the play-off however, being eliminated a round earlier than the year before as they lost out to Dundee United – who didn’t secure promotion themselves.

The next season would not go particularly the way the veteran striker might have hoped. Miller had felt he could retire with his first club, even potentially taking them up to the Premiership again. That was not to be – after coming so close, the next season became a disaster for the Bairns and effectively ruined the chance of Miller finishing his career there.

Peter Houston’s side had a start to the season that was far and away from those they’d made previously. Finding themselves at the bottom end of the table, Houston ended up mutually agreeing to depart with the sentiment that of a thought that maybe it was ‘time for a change.’

A change was made – with Paul Hartley coming in – but that change was ultimately not good for Falkirk – nor Lee Miller.

Having only scored once that season so far – in the league cup group stages against Brechin City – Miller did not play at all for Falkirk throughout the end of December or all of January, with Hartley supposedly looking at the likes of Miller and another veteran, Mark Kerr, as ‘bad eggs’ whom he’d earmarked for the exit.

Miller would eventually be released, putting the remainder of his career in question, with Hartley feeling Falkirk were better off without the experiences of the likes of Kerr and Miller. It’s hard to say if the pair would have made a difference, but it would have been difficult for them to make it much worse during Hartley’s time there – and supporters certainly felt they’d have improved circumstances for the most part.

Miller opened up on his last days with Falkirk, speaking to the Daily Record.

Miller said:

“When I went back to Falkirk it was a fairytale. It was where I started my career and I wanted to finish it there.

“I hoped we’d get promoted but we failed twice and in the third season it went badly wrong. It was a disastrous campaign.

“Paul Hartley came in and had his own views. He wanted his own players and I didn’t fit. Me and Mark Kerr were basically out.”

Miller also commented on the harsh way in which the situation was dealt with, he said:

“We were pulled in on Christmas Eve and told we didn’t have a future at the club.”

“That was poor. And it was hard to tell my wife and kids. My family loved it at Falkirk so they missed it.”

“I can’t go into it too much but hearing those rumours was horrendous.

“We thought someone was out to get us, to stitch us up. It couldn’t have been further from the truth.

“I’d never say anything against the club, I love the place. But I was hung out to dry.

“It left a sour taste in my mouth because Falkirk will always have a place in my heart.”

Miller would quite quickly land on his feet however, signing rather speedily for promotion hopefuls Livingston.

Things couldn’t have gone much better for Miller, who really got one over on his former club, while achieving what he’d originally set out to do with Falkirk – promotion.

Miller would score twice – while also registering four assists up until the end of the season. Livi would finish second in the league and then proceed to beat both Dundee United and Premiership side Partick Thistle in the play-offs to secure passage into the Premiership – while Falkirk would finish a place away from the relegation play-off spot, albeit by 17 points.

It’s not been a total dream for Miller on his return to the Premiership – he began excellently with a goal and assist against Airdrionians in the League Cup, but injuries have kept him to just five Premiership appearances this season. He’s also had to compete with the likes of Ryan Hardie and Dolly Menga for places when fit, although will likely be thrilled to see the team performing so well otherwise.

Now 35, with injuries restricting him so much, it wouldn’t be a great shock to see Miller retire at the conclusion of the campaign. Although it wouldn’t be shocking to see him attempt to prolong his storied career by a year or two – it just might not be with Livi, who seem destined to play in the Premiership again next season.

The controversies

Lee Miller wasn’t exactly shy, especially in his younger days, of making a bit of a fuss.

This of course started mostly with his attempts to force his way out of his first stint at Falkirk, refusing to play a reserve match for Dundee United also lined up in a similar case of petulance. It wasn’t long after the refusal, after joining Aberdeen, that Miller would be subject of a police report for “baring his backside” to United supporters.

This wasn’t the striker’s only run-in with the Police. In 2008 he was pulled over, after a supposed 5 mile police chase in which the then Aberdeen player had been travelling at speeds over 120 miles per hour on the A90. Police were unable to catch the player’s car when it was at its top speed to be able to record a speed – although they claimed their own vehicle was travelling at 120, unable to catch up, so it had to have been more – Footballers and driving offences – name a more iconic duo.

According to the Express:

At Stonehaven Sheriff Court, judge Patrick Davies said: “I am satisfied your driving did fail to a level consistent with a finding of dangerous driving, so you will be convicted on that charge.”

PC Claire Doherty and PC Alistair MacLeod were parked at an accident blackspot on the A90 Aberdeen to Dundee road at Fordoun and immediately gave chase as Miller sped past.

PC Doherty said: “I started driving after him to try and catch up but PC MacLeod shouted that I was doing 120mph.”

Miller was fined and had his license revoked – and had to sit an extended driving test in order to regain it.

Fortunately for the one time Scotland international, this was the last of his controversies. Unlike some other notable players in football history, Miller certainly seemed to learn his lessons, grow as a person and has turned into what appears to be a role-model pro.

Play Style

At 6’2” with quite a lanky frame, Miller was often deployed alongside another striker as a target man or sorts. Often able to use his head and chest to bring the ball down or flick it on, Miller has also scored a considerable amount of goals with his head.

The striker however, especially in his younger years, was quite mobile and quick for his height, which gave strikers more to think about. Having played a decent amount of his career with Aberdeen, a good comparison for Cosgrove would have been as a slightly lankier version of current Dons striker Sam Cosgrove.

Miller was also the perfect poacher, finding tight spaces and having the knack of managing to get a slight touch on the ball in order to turn the ball in.

This goal against Hibernian demonstrates the ability to sneak into space and get a small touch to flick the ball past the Hibernian goalkeeper.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzGCyKKyb6A

This goal for Kilmarnock also shows Miller’s smart positional play to escape his marker.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYoQp6wWrWc

While this goal displays largely poor goalkeeping, the play from Miller shows his escaping once again, but also his height coming into play.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGTGc72UNlg

This video shows some of the previously mentioned goals, but also physical play making use of his lanky frame, as well as a liking for the spectacular – an overhead kick.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dERjvEPLAvU

It wasn’t even his first, here’s a (poor quality) video of Miller once again putting his long legs to use, scoring another overhead kick.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PJ5cjrPNyQ

The inspiration

This story needed a whole section to it-self. It would have felt wrong to look at this negatively, as obviously this is a negative happening, but inspiration can be taken from Miller’s ability to continue on and raise awareness after the passing of his wife.

In 2012, his wife Donna, just 29, died after suffering a brain tumour. They had two sons together.

Miller had written on his Twitter in reaction:

“Saddest day of my life. RIP Donna…….u will always b loved!!..a wonderful mum 2 our beautiful boys!!..they will never 4get u!!..xxx”

Donna had not received some of the treatment that may of helped – as she’d have had to abort one of the children she had with Lee.

The family went on to open a children’s cancer ward, which was funded by donation in her memory.

It felt only right to end this article with this story, in tribute to Lee’s wife.

That’s it for this feature article. As you may have noticed, these are slightly less frequent at the moment – this just comes down to being incredibly busy – expect to see weekly features back in May.

Until then, it will likely be bi-weekly. So anticipate something a little bit different in a fortnight. Not a feature article, but a feature podcast – looking at being a referee, the issues we are having with referee’s and a ref’s perspective as to the issues they face as well.

As for ‘Remember Him? – A Career Retrospective’ let us know if you have any suggestions for the next one, tweet us @NE98FT

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