Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Miller time for Queensland Roar
Former Scotland and Rangers midfielder Charlie Miller has answered critics who questioned his match fitness by producing a record-breaking start to the A-League with four goals in his first four matches.
"Not bad for a little, fat guy," was the response of his Queensland Roar coach, Frank Farina midway through his scoring spree.
Miller joined the Brisbane-based club after a move to Central Coast to join ex-Rangers teammate Ian Ferguson - the former Mariners' assistant and now North Queensland coach - fell through. Instead, he linked up with another friend from his Ibrox days, Craig Moore, the Socceroo defender.
At first, the arrival of the stocky 32-year-old at the Suncorp Stadium was compared by one TV analyst to the disastrous stint at the Newcastle Jets last season of a clearly unfit Mario Jardel, the former Brazil striker.
But despite the Roar's patchy form, Miller has regularly produced goals, matching the feats of former Liverpool forward Alun Evans who scored in his first four appearances for South Melbourne in the old National Soccer League.
Only in the Roar's 1-0 home defeat to premiers Newcastle in round five on September 19th did Miller's remarkable streak come to an end.
Miller is the first to admit that he's still working towards peak condition: "Obviously I was a long way behind the rest of the boys in terms of pre-season training, but I'm getting there," he said.
He hopes that a move to the A-League will help revive a once solid professional career that has stalled over the past couple of years. After a successful two seasons with Norwegian club, SK Brann, Miller had as unsuccessful trial at Cardiff City in December 2006 before joining Belgian club, Lierse, one-time home of Socceroo striker Archie Thompson.
Miller signed a three year contract with Lierse but was released barely 12 months later after only eight appearances.
However, the early signs are that the former Scotland Young Player of the Year will turn out to be one of Queensland's most successful imports. His clever passing and ability from set pieces provide the kind of support that the Roar's sometimes under-performing strikers have been missing in the previous three seasons.
It's been five years since Miller last played in the Scottish Premier League, but he says the SPL - minus Rangers and Celtic - and the A-League are of a similar standard.
His one and only Scotland cap came in a Poland friendly in April 2001 when he played the first 56 minutes before being replaced by Steven Caldwell in the 1-1 draw.
Miller told ESPN Soccernet that while he misses friends and family back in Scotland, he's loving the lifestyle in Australia's Queensland state and enjoys crossing paths with some of the Aussies he met during his long European career.
Q: Charlie, why did you opt for the A-League after more than 15 years playing in Europe ?
A: It was just for a change. It was a good opportunity to get the family out into a sunny climate and I was looking forward to coming out to the A-League and experiencing the football. The gaffer (Frank Farina) was great. He helped me make up my mind to come out.
How much a factor was your connection to Craig Moore through the Rangers days together?
Ian Ferguson tried to get me to Central Coast, but that fell through. I gave my word to Fergie that I'd go out there but when that fell through Craig 'phoned and I said: "Why not?". I've thoroughly enjoyed myself so far.
What are your memories of the Aussies that you came across during your Rangers and European career?
I played with quite a few Aussies. Obviously I played with Craig at Rangers. I played with Richard Johnson at Watford and then Dylan McAllister, of Central Coast Mariners, at Braan in Norway. So I've come across many of them and and I've been very fortunate to have met some good Australians. I know Kevin Muscat quite well, played against some boys at Lillestrom. Australian boys are very athletic, very fit and honest players.
You've made a great start to the A-League, but how would you rate the standard compared to Scotland or one of the lower tiers in England ?
It's as good as the Scottish Premier League definitely. Obviously Celtic and Rangers are that little bit ahead of everybody else, but it is up there with the Scottish Premier League. I wouldn't go beyond the Championship in England because I think it is a good standard of football. There are a lot of very good players in the Championship, but I would definitely say roundabout there.
Your reputation is of an outstanding midfielder when playing at your best, but also someone who once liked to party. What's Charlie Miller of 2008 like?
I like to have a few beers, there's nothing wrong with that but you have to do it at the right times. Sometimes when I was younger I did that at the wrong times, but that's in past. Obviously I was a long way behind the rest of the boys in terms of pre-season training which was not great for me, but I'm getting there. Hopefully I can get better every game. I've been lucky enough to score some goals which has been a great start, may it continue. But it is not about me scoring goals: it is about the team and how we play and how we get victories.
What's the one thing you like most about Australia and the one thing you miss most about Scotland?
The weather has been amazing. Even the middle of winter was amazing. You wake up every day and the sun's shining and it makes you happy sometimes. Obviously what I miss most about Scotland is my family and friends. I have my wife and kids here which helps, but I've been very fortunate to get the opportunity to come over here.
Australia faced Scotland in a playoff for the 1986 World Cup, which the Scots won 2-0 on aggregate. How would a similar play-off turn out if it were held for South Africa 2010?
Hopefully it would be the same result for Scotland. I would say a draw in Scotland, a draw in Australia and penalty kicks.
* Sydney-born Jason Dasey ( www.jasondasey.com ) is a host of Soccernet SportsCenter and SportsCenter. He covered the 2006 World Cup and the 2007 Asian Cup for ESPN