The striker took one step closer to winning a new contract by showing the Rangers manager exactly the kind of player he is. Craig Fowler writes
The strike was perfect. It was a small gap: a sliver at the front post, shrinking by the second. Kenny Miller didn’t need time to think about it. 19 years of shooting towards goal had taught him everything he needed to know in this instance. Reacting on pure instinct, he cut across the ball, catching it at just the right time as it bounced off the earth. It flew with a soaring trajectory, crashing into the back of the net and sending Rangers on the way to victory.
Having netted a second and come close to grabbing a hat-trick later in the game, it was inevitable that new manager Pedro Caixinha was going to be asked about the player and his contract situation in the immediate aftermath.
“Maybe I’m going to make a new contract extension to Wes [Foderingham] for making a brilliant save when the game was 0-0,” was his short response.
It’s easy to see why the Rangers boss wants to take his time. Miller is going to be 38 years old midway through next season. Though there are exceptions, it’s unusual to have someone, especially an attacker, of such advancing years be one of the big players in a team that will have aspirations, fanciful or not, of challenging for a title. As good as Miller has been this season, most supporters look at him as the best of a bad bunch and believe Rangers should be aiming a lot higher.
If Caixinha feels the same then a new contract might not materialise. But the Rangers boss should perhaps take heed from the example set by Brendan Rodgers at Celtic last summer. It isn’t always necessary to make wholesale changes to a squad, even when it’s underachieving. Two or three good signings can lift the standard significantly. If that’s going to be the head coach’s plan of attack, then keeping Miller seems like a no-brainer. There’s several others who should be heading for the exit before him, regardless of age.
Having said that, Caixinha is right to dismiss the notion that’s he’s going to change his mind on the whim, and slap down a new contract for Miller to sign on the back of the two goals he scored at Pittodrie. The Rangers boss obviously wants to take his time and one game shouldn’t change that.
Besides, the goals wouldn’t have told Caixinha much he didn’t already know. You don’t have to be manager of Rangers to realise Kenny Miller has the ability to win games. A quick glance at his Wikipedia page would tell you that. Even in his 37th year he can still put teams to the sword, scoring winning goals against Dundee, Motherwell and Inverness across this current league campaign, while single-handedly keeping Rangers in the Scottish Cup with a late brace when Motherwell came to visit Ibrox in January.
What would have impressed his manager, and possibly gone a long way to securing Miller a new contract, would have been the disciplined manner he performed his role when Rangers didn’t have the ball. Until he nearly tore the netting off the posts, he hadn’t contributed all that much in an attacking sense, but defensively Miller was excellent throughout.
Largely playing on the right of a 4-1-4-1 formation, Miller tracked runners, pressed defenders and attackers alike, and got stuck into challenges. In the second minute he found himself as the deepest defender in his own box, blocking off a late charge from Andy Considine and allowing goalkeeper Wes Foderingham to get a clean run to a looping ball. It would set the tone for his afternoon.
Pundits always talk about players being an inspiration, and Miller is definitely one such athlete who falls in that category. The stamina and work rate possessed by the man, considering he’s pushing 40, is just ridiculous.
One instance saw him race back towards his own goal after being caught on the ball near midfield by Graeme Shinnie. He charged back and managed to dispossessed his opponent near the Rangers corner flag. Then, 90 seconds later, he was the most advanced player up the other end, hurriedly pressing Anthony O’Connor and goalkeeper Joe Lewis, forcing the hosts into punting the ball long rather than building play from the back.
This wasn’t during the first half where energy levels are still high. This was the 70th minute. Having spent the game to that point running up and down the wing, you’d have thought he’d earned himself a rest after robbing Shinnie. Instead, there was no sign of fatigue at all as he continued to push on, always looking to lead by example.
That’s surely got to be the type of character Caixinha wants in his dressing room next season.