Former Hibernian manager John Hughes has offered his support to Liam Miller in the 36-year-old’s battle against cancer, and has described the former Celtic and Manchester United midfielder as “one of the best professionals” he has worked with.
Hughes brought Miller to the Easter Road club in 2009 and the ex-Republic of Ireland internationalist played his part in a fourth-place finish that earned Hibs entry to the Europa League.
Such was Miller’s influence that season that he was named the league sponsor’s Player of the Month for October.
While “Yogi” Hughes, who has been out of work since leaving Raith Rovers at the end of last season, had been aware of the Irishman’s plight, news of Miller’s battle reached the pubic domain via social media late on Sunday evening.
“It’s absolute tragic news,” said Hughes.
“I knew he had cancer and all my hope and prayers are with him. He’s a fighter. If anybody can come through, he can – that’s for sure. It puts football into perspective doesn’t it? We all love football but there are more important things, and that’s life.
“All my hope and prayers are for the Miller family and hopefully he can come through it.”
Miller moved to Old Trafford after beginning his career at Celtic and subsequently turned out for Sunderland and QPR before returning north of the border.
Hughes had no hesitation in recruiting the dynamic midfielder and says he was hugely impressed by Miller’s dedication on and off the pitch.
He added: “I signed Liam and I couldn’t believe it. It was like winning the lottery because the window had closed.
“One of the players I worked with was Graham Barrett. I signed him from Arsenal for Falkirk, and they were best of mates.
“Graham phoned me up and said, ‘what about Liam?’ I said, ‘get him up here’ and I couldn’t believe my luck when he walked through the door.
“He was one of the best professionals I’ve ever worked with, he was unbelievable. He had a great sense of humour, but a quiet sense of humour.
“Always out on the training pitch with a ball 15 minutes before training started. I think Liam got in the team of the year that season.
“He just wanted to come and play football. He made all his money with Celtic, Manchester United.
“He was very quiet and kept himself to himself, but he was always in the background cranking it up and letting other people fire the bullets.”
Given his quality and dedication to his fitness, Hughes says Miller became a natural role model for the younger generation at Hibs.
He added: “You just say to the young boys, ‘get yourself close to Miller’, because he was one of the best professionals; body fat, ripped, training like an absolute trojan – unbelievable.
“The fittest professional I’ve ever worked with. We used to do the bleep test and he would run it off the clock.
“You could turn the lights off. He would still be going after the final bleep and everyone else was lying down, struggling for oxygen. That’s his dedication to be a professional footballer.
“He was out 15 minutes before and never came off after it. He always said: ‘can we get shooting, can we do this?’
“That Hibs team was a good team, we played some wonderful football and he was the catalyst for doing that.
“It’s a pleasure to know him and work with him.”
Miller enjoyed a spell in Australia with Perth Glory, Brisbane Roar and Melbourne City before returning to home town club Cork in 2015.
Mostly recently, the player had been with American semi-professional club Wilmington Hammerheads and Hughes kept in touch with the 21-times capped internationalist through former Hibs midfielder Kevin McBride, who was assistant manager at Raith Rovers.
“I was talking to Kevin McBride. He was keeping me updated because we knew for a while,” said Hughes. “He is really close with him, he was over in America.
“He was always articulate and switched on and he would send him wee photos of himself on the beach, giving him stick and all that. A wonderful guy.”