Success has been the driving force behind Kenny Miller’s career.
At the age of 40, the former striker looks back on his playing days with immense pride, reminiscing about a 22 year career which saw him lift nine trophies in Scotland.
On Saturday, football fans across the country should have been preparing for the William Hill Scottish Cup final.
Kenny Miller was one of those looking forward to the occasion.
“I grew up watching the Scottish Cup finals,” the two-time winner said. “When you start out as a player in this country, you dream about playing in it, winning it or even scoring in a final. Yes it’s a shame we won’t be seeing the final this weekend but nobody could have anticipated this and of course health is the priority for everyone.”
With no football to look forward to, the opportunity presented itself for the former Scotland international to look back instead.
“From the very beginning of my career I’ve always wanted to be a part of successful teams, and that’s been the reason behind decisions I’ve made in my career to be honest,” Miller explained. “I want to win things, it’s as simple as that. I want to be at the top of tables rather than the bottom.”
When it comes to the Scottish Cup, the now Newcastle Jets assistant manager said: “I’ve had some good memories and some bad memories to be honest, but when you lift the Scottish Cup, words cannot describe the feeling. It’s what you want to do as a player. It’s the showpiece game at the end of the season, you want to be involved in it and you want to make sure you’re lifting it.
“The other side of it is hard to describe too. I was obviously on the wrong end of the result in 2016 when Hibs lifted the trophy and that was really disappointing, but, like almost every Scottish Cup final I can remember, it was another fantastic game and spectacle. It involved two Championship clubs too which was the first time that’s happened.
“One of my earliest memories of the Scottish Cup was with Stenhousemuir when we went to Ibrox and it’s a memory that will always live with me. Fast forward a year and we got knocked out by Hibs when I was back at Easter Road after my loan, and that’s a memory you want to forget. I think Hibs had been waiting 100 years at that point, so there was huge frustration. It’s strange to think it was 16 years later when I was playing in the game when that wait came to an end for Hibs actually.
“One thing I do remember when you’re going in to a cup final as a player for Rangers or Celtic is that you’re always going in as favourite, unless you’re going up against each other of course.
“Cup finals always seem to be tight matches. I remember going up against Falkirk with Rangers in 2009 and before that when I was at Celtic we faced Dunfermline in the final and both were 1-0 games. There was nothing between the teams to be honest and both games were so, so tight. I think that’s because there’s so much at stake - there’s pressure on the bigger side to win and the other team has the approach where there’s nothing to lose. So, if I’m honest, the cup finals I’ve won have not actually been enjoyable until the final whistle goes and you know you’ll be lifting the trophy.”
There is more to the occasion than the fixture for supporters, but the spectacle that surrounds the Scottish Cup final is usually lost on a player, Miller admits.
“I’ve always been focused on the job at hand. You know there’s a lot at stake and for me personally there was more of a sense of relief at the end of those matches than enjoyment,” he revealed.
“In the build-up to the match, I just make sure all of the boxes are ticked. Everything that was discussed and prepared for beforehand, nothing changes for the occasion. As I mentioned before, if you’re classed as the favourite going in to it, you know the other team will have more of a freedom about them and that anything can happen on the day, so you have to make sure nothing about the day itself takes your mind away from the task and the usual mind-set you have before any other game.”
He added: “Finals are always tough no matter what. When I was Cardiff we made it to the Carling Cup final and faced Liverpool, so we were the underdogs that day. When nobody gives you a chance and you take the favourites to a penalty shootout like we did that day, to then lose it, is so hard to take.”
Over 650 appearances, over 200 goals and a total of 12 different clubs may tell part of the story about Kenny Miller’s career, but the most important thing for the selfless striker was the result of the team above all else.
He said: “I always wanted to be able to look back on my career with pride, and winning things does that.
“I feel fortunate to have won the League and League Cup, but of course that final game of the season, the Scottish Cup final, is what you want to be involved in as a player… as long as you’re on the right end of the result of course.”