ANY player who has bounced between Rangers and Celtic throughout his career can’t be thin-skinned.
It is little wonder then that, as Kenny Miller prepares for the latest chapter of his remarkable career through embarking upon a third spell at Ibrox, he is sanguine about the possibility of putting himself once more in the firing line.
There has been some disquiet among Rangers supporters about Miller’s return at the age of 34, with the club teetering financially. Not least down to the fact that he ended a two-and-a-half year stint in January 2011 when he was offered more money with Bursaspor.
Turkey proved one of five countries Miller has played in during a remarkable career that earned him 69 caps and began with Hibernian before spells with Rangers, Wolverhampton Wanders, Celtic, Derby County, Rangers again, Bursaspor and more recently Canadian club Vancouver Whitecaps. In his postings outside Glasgow he could walk down busy streets without punters giving him stick. Yet the fact it might be different in the coming years seems to excite the veteran forward.
“I honestly think that it doesn’t matter if you play for one side or the other. If you walk through that city centre then you know what will happen,” Miller says. “Half the city might support you – or in my case a quarter of the city might support you.
“To be honest the fans have been great. I’ve never bumped into anyone who has given me real stick. I’ve mostly had supportive messages and banter. There will be a fan who maybe gives you a bit of abuse, but it’s part of the goldfish bowl of Glasgow life. I love it and I look forward to walking down the street in a few weeks and getting some stick.”
To avoid that stick coming from followers of the Ibrox club, Ally McCoist’s men will have to hit the ground running in a Championship that will contain his former club Hibs as well as Hearts. Rangers will face a genuine league test following two years post-liquidation when they have breezed through essentially part-time set-ups. That could prove the catalyst for a squad to start living up to its £6m in wages, according to Miller. “I wouldn’t say I’m delighted about [Hibs being there] but it’s a challenge. This squad needs challenged,” he says. “We’ve played at a level these last few years and won games quite comfortably without ever getting out of second or third gears. I’m sure this year will be a real challenge and we can rise to the challenge and bring the best out of the boys here.
“It will be competitive this season not just with Hibs and Hearts. Livingston are a good club, Falkirk will be there or thereabouts and Queen of the South have always been a tough team to play in cups. It’s one where I think we will be challenged, but it will bring out the best in this squad.”
Miller is determined to do his best for a manager he considers to have been instrumental in shaping his career, the forward biting when he is asked about possible unfair criticism faced by McCoist in recent years.
“When you go through a season unbeaten [in the league] at any level then you have to be doing something right,” he says. “It’s expected but I’m sure when Rangers stepped out of the SPL and were in the plight we were in then everyone expected Celtic to get trebles and we’ve not seen that yet.
“It’s not as easy as saying you are better than that team and you go out and beat them. There is always a cup shock, but to go through the league unbeaten is an incredible achievement. I’ve no doubt that this squad will rise to that challenge and we’ll be at the top of the Championship.
“As a Rangers manager you are expected to win things. Doing it at the level we’ve been at has been a given – we should have won the leagues we’ve been in. Even though it’s a different team now the Rangers players are still expected to win in cups too. So when you are put under pressure that way you will always be open to criticism. It’s been a big re-building job over the last few years. To deal with everything they’ve dealt with I think the coaching staff deserve a lot of credit.
“I think everyone at some point has felt for the manager over the last couple of seasons. He’s had to deal with so much away from the football. Managers should only really have to concentrate on their team and winning games on a Saturday – especially as a Rangers manager. I can’t imagine what he’s gone through these last three years.
“He’s been a big part of my career since him and Walter [Smith] took over the national squad in 2005. We’re talking the best part of a decade now. When I came back here in 2008 and Walter was the manager I could say the same things now as I did then. Had it not been for Walter, and Ally now, then I wouldn’t have had the chance to come back and play at this amazing football club.”