HAVING ploughed a lonely and ultimately fruitless furrow up front for Scotland through six failed attempts to reach the finals of a major championship, Kenny Miller has already resigned himself to what will happen in the first campaign following his international retirement.
“Don’t even say it,” he smiled, when the subject was raised. “It’s Sod’s Law that Scotland will get to Euro 2016. I might try and make a comeback if they do! Seriously, it’s one of those things that’s just written in the stars.
“There are going to be more teams making it to those finals and I hope it happens for Scotland. It would be great to see the team back in a major finals and I’d just have to go along with the Tartan Army to support them.”
Miller, whose international career began at schoolboy level, was speaking at Bishopbriggs Academy, current holders of the Scottish Schools’ Football Association’s under-18 shield, to launch TSB’s sponsorship of the SSFA.
Currently back in Scotland while he recovers from knee surgery, the Vancouver Whitecaps striker insists he has no regrets about his decision to stand down from Scotland duty after scoring his 18th goal for his country in his 69th appearance when they lost 3-2 to England at Wembley in August.
Miller is confident a revival in fortunes will be maintained by Gordon Strachan but does not anticipate offering his services to the Scotland manager again, even if he does return to play in British football next year.
“No, I don’t think so,” added Miller. “The main reasons I made the decision would still be there. By the time the next major finals come around in 2016 I’m going to be 36-and-a-half-years-old. Listen, I feel at the moment I could still play and I could still do a job for Scotland. But factoring in where I’m playing and when the next finals are going to be, I thought it was time.
“I have missed it, but whether it was the right or wrong decision doesn’t matter now. It felt right at the time and with the campaign being at the stage it was, I was wondering if I was going to take a spot in the squad off somebody else who could maybe help us in the next round of qualifiers.
“When I eventually spoke to Gordon, it was a phone call I didn’t want to make. It was the night before a squad was to be named. It was a decision I didn’t really want to make but the campaign was all but over and I was playing across in the MLS – it was just getting a bit much to do that flight all the time.
“The strikers who have played since I left have done well. Steven Fletcher is back and it’s no secret he will be Gordon’s number one striker. Steven Naismith’s done a great job to give the manager food for thought, Kris Boyd is back scoring goals, Ross McCormack is flying at Leeds and Jordan Rhodes has been unfortunate to pull out the last few squads injured. So there are plenty of lads capable of taking the nation forward towards 2016.
“The boys under Gordon have shown in recent games they are capable of competing with the best teams around. Gordon is not a complicated guy. He comes in and tells you what he wants. He says, ‘This is how I want you to play, I need you to go out and do it’. As long as you’re giving 100 per cent, he’s not going to jump on you if you have a bad day. But, if you’re not pulling your weight or doing your bit for your team-mates, then he will jump on it.
“The lads have responded great to him. I was in a couple of squads there under Gordon and he just puts his points across so well. Walter Smith had the same effect when he came in after a pretty disastrous campaign. Overnight, we seemed to get better performances and results. Gordon has had the same effect. He’s put his stamp on the team, each individual knows his job down to a T.
“The manager can only do so much. He can put a team and a shape in place, but it’s up to the players to perform and they have done that under Gordon. There are people who get that respect just walking into a dressing room. Gordon has got that. He commands it for what he’s done as a player and a manager.
“A couple of good results can bring confidence and I still say we have some fantastic players. It’s not as bleak as it’s been made out. We never played great in Norway, I know Gordon wasn’t too happy with the performance, but to play poorly and win over there is a good sign for me.”
Miller, meanwhile, does not expect Scotland captain Scott Brown to curb the petulant streak which saw him fortunate to escape a red card for kicking out at Norway defender Vergard Forren on Tuesday in the same manner which earned him a three-match Champions League ban for his clash with Barcelona forward Neymar.
“Scott is what he is, but it’s not pre-meditated,” said Miller. “In the moment, he does silly things sometimes. We’d prefer not to see him do it, because Celtic and Scotland need him on the park, but you can’t take that edge out of his game.”