The 43-year-old believes that had Rangers restored the traditional 7,500 ticket allocation by giving the away support the Broomloan Stand when they face their title rivals for the first time this season, his former club could have psychologically hammered home that they are ready to be the Scottish champions – and in the process added to the adversarial ambience of the fixture that was doused last year when both clubs cut their rivals’ ticket allocations.
Miller is in no doubt that cutting the number of Celtic fans in Ibrox last season to 800 – as there will be again this weekend – worked for Rangers with back-to-back derby successes in Govan ending a run of four home Old Firm defeats, some hefty. But he thinks Steven Gerrard’s men should now be sending out the message they have made sufficient progress to not need any such perceived off-field advantages.
“Last year I’d have restricted the fans, 100 per cent because they were too far ahead of us and we were giving them every opportunity to give us a doing in our own stadium, with 7000 of them celebrating behind one goal,” Miller said. “But this year it’s closer and I’d have given them the Celtic end back, let’s go for it. If Rangers think they’ve come as far as they believe they have, let’s make it a proper derby.”
The days of one-sided contests between the pair are over for Miller. Yet, although Rangers may have matched Celtic this season by posting three straight league wins he cautions against a growing belief among a section of the Rangers support that their bitter enemies are there for the taking – and about to be stopped from claiming a ninth straight title. Such a run that would equal the nine-in-a-row Miller helped the Ibrox club claim in 1990s to match the sequence achieved by Jock Stein’s Celtic across the Lisbon Lions era.
“It’s the closest it’s been for years in my eyes,” said the playmaker, who featured nine times in the fixture without ever being on the losing side. “[Jermain] Defoe looks as fit as he’s been since he came here and [Alfredo] Morelos now has real competition, which is also good. I’m still not sure about left-back, I think they might play [Jon] Flanagan there. You can play [Andy] Halliday there but I prefer him in midfield, he’s a makeshift left-back if he has to be.
“Rangers have got to go and give it to Celtic. Celtic are still the standard. This Rangers team has only played half a dozen games and while the Rangers fans are pleased with what they’re seeing – and I am too – I just hope they can go and do it in the Old Firm game. It’ll be a difficult game, midfield’s where it’s going to be won and lost. I hope Celtic play [Callum] McGregor at left-back, because he’s such a good football player and taking him out of the midfield is a big loss to them. They have [Oliver] Ntcham, [Scott] Brown, [James] Forrest, [Ryan] Christie, they’re strong and it’ll be difficult if they’re all fit.
“Celtic are probably still favourites. OK, Rangers have started the season well, but this is their first real test, to see if they can handle the pressure – especially the new players. Celtic have been there more than Rangers over the years and won games. I believe Rangers have improved, 100 per cent, I just hope the boys can go in with that 100 per cent commitment and get a victory.”