Gordon Strachan has hailed both Kenny Miller’s work ethic and goal contribution as he continued to come to terms with the fact that the striker will no longer be available for international duty.
With his Canadian club currently paced in an MLS play-off spot, and following an impressive performance and goal against England last week, Miller, 33, has decided to call time on his Scotland career, after 69 appearances and 18 goals.
The Vancouver Whitecaps striker made his debut for Scotland as a substitute in a friendly against Poland in 2001, when Craig Brown was international manager. He has since played under six other managers and has maintained his place as the lead striker for all of them.
Indeed, in the aftermath of last Wednesday’s 3-2 defeat to England Strachan lavished praise on Miller and suggested he could still be factor in another qualifying campaign. However, in a phone call from Miller on Thursday evening, the manager accepted that he would have to look elsewhere for someone to play the lone striker’s role, something that has become a feature of Scotland’s play over the 12 years that Miller has been an international player. Asked whether there was anyone in the current squad who could handle this task, Strachan said “no – but it can be done over time, that’s for sure”. The forwards he named yesterday in the squad to face Belgium and Macedonia are Leigh Griffiths, James Mackie, Shaun Maloney, Ross McCormack and Jordan Rhodes. They have eight international goals between them.
Asked yesterday whether this concerned him, Strachan replied: “Until you put a stark fact like that to me I wasn’t too bothered, but I’m worried now!”
He added: “It’s like Gareth Bale leaving Tottenham – that’s 23, 24 goals they’re missing. When Coventry went down [in 2001] we lost Gary McAllister and Robbie Keane in July or August and we couldn’t replace them. They scored 29 goals between them the previous season and we just couldn’t replace that. You have to be able to replace goals.
“We have been getting progress but that has to be turned into goals and wins. We have Steven Fletcher there as well.”
Fletcher is still returning from an ankle injury sustained in the defeat to Wales in March, so Miller’s loss will be more keenly felt in the forthcoming qualifiers. However, with Scotland already unable to qualify for this summer’s World Cup finals, it gives Strachan some time to bed in an adequate replacement for Miller, who he described as “exemplary” yesterday.
“He can leave with no regrets,” Strachan said. “He’s given it everything.
“He’s not as talented as Dalglish, McClair or Charlie Nicholas. But nobody has put in as much work as he has, that’s for sure.”
“It was pointed out he doesn’t just run about,” he added. “If you look at the goals there are some good goals in there as well.
“He got better as he got older. He showed there the other night with the hard work he’s put in he knows what made Kenny Miller a good player.
“When he was younger he might have thought ‘can I do this, can I do that?’ then he realised ‘I can’t do this or that, I’ll stick to what I’m good at and make my living this way’.”
Strachan admitted that he tried to persuade Miller to reverse his decision – for about a minute. “Then I thought to myself ‘this is really selfish’,” he explained. “I told him he’d have to excuse me because I went into a kind of selfish mode trying to change his mind.
“I suddenly thought it was wrong and I shouldn’t be doing it. He’d done as much as he can. I’m thinking about myself here – he has to think about his own career. The decision was difficult enough for him as it was and I was actually making it harder so I had to say to myself: ‘shut up Gordon’.”
Miller released his own statement last night. He insisted that it was in “in everyone’s best interests” that he stepped aside now, despite once pledging that he would never officially retire as a Scotland player.
“It is with huge sadness that I am announcing my retirement from international football,” said Miller. “It has been the toughest decision I have ever made in football but I bow out with huge satisfaction and pride.
“After 12 years and 69 caps it is time for me to fully concentrate on the
remainder of my club career and
dedicate more time to my young family.
“I once said I would never quit playing for Scotland but after long and careful thought I would only be carrying on for selfish reasons and for the good of the country it’s in everyone’s best interests that the younger Scottish strikers take the nation forward.
“I would like to thank Craig Brown for taking a chance on me in 2001 and every other Scottish manager who I played under.
“To captain my country on several occasions was the greatest honour and (gave me) memories that I will never forget. I would especially like to thank my mum and dad who have supported me in fulfilling my dreams right from an early age, without them it would not have been possible.
“I’m now looking forward to supporting my country at Hampden as a fan.”