KENNY Miller has backed Gordon Strachan to emulate the restorative effect on Scotland’s results and performances which was achieved by Walter Smith when he took charge of a national team in disarray eight years ago.
Veteran striker Miller is set to turn out for his seventh permanent Scotland manager in tomorrow night’s Vauxhall Challenge match against Estonia at Pittodrie, Strachan’s first assignment since being appointed Craig Levein’s successor last month.
Miller, who played under Strachan for Celtic, sees similarities between him and his former Rangers manager Smith who became Scotland boss in the wake of Berti Vogts’ calamitous tenure. Despite utilising largely the same squad of players Vogts had selected, Smith managed to improve Scotland’s Fifa world ranking from an all-time low of 86th place and repair the damaged credibility of the national team.
Strachan is taking the post with Scotland’s fortunes at another dismally low ebb following a wretched series of qualifying fixtures under Levein which prompted his sacking by the SFA last October.
But Strachan has stuck by the players who served under Levein, prompting 33-year-old Miller to predict a rapid revival of Scotland’s fortunes.
“It is exactly what Walter did,” said Miller. “He came in and it was the same group of players who were underachieving and whether it was down to tactics or his man-management, every single player got a lift. I’m sure Gordon would love to see the same response. There’s no reason why he can’t. The manager will have a plan for the future.
“Craig Levein put a lot of plans into place with the youth set-up which will be good in the future. But in the short term, we have to aim to win our next two World Cup qualifiers against Wales and Serbia next month. If we do that, you never know, we could be back in the shake-up and there might be a bit of light in the campaign yet.
“I think we all saw from Gordon’s time at Celtic, he organises his teams very well. Whether it was domestic games or European games, he sets the team up properly.
“Even in this morning’s first training session under him, there were elements of how he wants us to go about our business. It was all built into a training game.
“He was trying to get us into his way of thinking right from the moment we stepped onto the training pitch. We worked on winning the ball back, defending and how we can attack. We were already working on all that and it was only the first training session. So we’ll be prepared and we’ll be ready.”
Miller is confident the existing group of Scotland players are capable of significant improvement and rejected Levein’s recent comments, in an interview with Scotland on Sunday, that the national team would “stay at the same level until we get better players”.
Levein, dismissed after the team managed just two points from their first four 2014 World Cup qualifiers, also stated that he exaggerated his opinion of the players at his disposal when talking them up to the media, but Miller insists the squad had been united in their optimism over a positive start to the Group A campaign.
“I don’t know about the last manager’s thoughts on saying that if he didn’t believe it,” said Miller. “The players genuinely believed we were ready to go and do well. We believed in each other and there were signs of that in performances we had.
“We really thought we could do well and I still think we can. I don’t have the answer why we didn’t perform in the first four games. It was really disappointing for everyone involved because the group felt we could win any game home or away.
“All the teams were on a par. I didn’t see what Craig said recently, this is news to me, but maybe he thought he was using some psychology to get some belief into the players. Managers sometimes do that. But there are definitely another few gears in this squad. We have seen that in the games so far. Drawing at home to Serbia was not too bad, they have shown they’re a decent side.
“The next three games were really disappointing. We shouldn’t have dropped points at home to Macedonia and we should not have lost in the winning position we were in down in Wales.
“We can make excuses about the goal that never was that could have won us the game, but in the end we threw it away. We then had to go to Belgium needing to get something but if we had done our job in the previous games it would have been different. There’s no disgrace in losing in Belgium but the previous results made it very hard for us.”
If Miller earns his 66th cap against Estonia tomorrow, he will move above illustrious namesake Willie to eighth place in the all-time appearances list for Scotland. The Vancouver Whitecaps player insists he remains as motivated as ever to play for his country.
“It means so much to me and you don’t want to give it up,” he said. “You have to be realistic, you can’t go on forever, but this is not something I want to give up while I feel I have something to offer.”