Brendan Rodgers yesterday spoke of Liam Miller remaining “in the memory of everyone at Celtic” following the tragic passing of the 36-year-old midfielder, who came through the ranks at the club.
Miller, who made 44 appearances for Celtic before moving to Manchester United in 2004 and then later to Hibernian, tragically died on Friday night of pancreatic cancer. The club held a minute’s silence before their 3-2 fifth round Scottish Cup victory over Partick Thistle and all home players wore black armbands as a mark of respect.
“It was a real sad moment when we got the message through at the hotel last night. He was so young, at 36-years-old,” said the Celtic manager.
“Lots of Irish boys dream of coming across and playing for Celtic. He did that and he had a fantastic career. To lose your life at such an age, and to leave a young family behind, is so sad. The club paid a great tribute to him today and he’ll always be in the memory of everyone here at Celtic.”
Northern Irishman Rodgers never crossed paths with the Cork-born Miller, who earned 22 caps for the Republic, but said: “I was aware of him as a young player with talent here. He made his move to Manchester United and had a good career at various clubs. I always felt he was an outstanding talent. It’s awful news.”
A first senior hat-trick for James Forrest yesterday seemed to have a poignancy as Miller’s life was commemorated with Forrest also a homegrown Celtic player who joined the club’s academy the year Miller made his senior breakthrough for the Glasgow side.
“It was so sad. We have the masseurs and Kendo [first-team coach John Kennedy] that know him as well and you don’t hear anything but good things about him. We heard it this morning and it was terrible news,” Forrest said.
“I was coming through when he was playing and when you are a young boy you look up to the ones who are playing. He was a top player who went to Man United and did have a good career. It is a sad day for the family. I played against him once or twice.
“We went to Australia and played against his team [Perth Glory in July 2011] but I didn’t know him well.”
Martin O’Neill was one of many figures within the game who paid tribute to Miller yesterday, the current Republic of Ireland manager having given the midfielder his chance when in charge at Celtic.
“I remember the impact that Liam had in a big Champions League match against Lyon,” said O’Neill. “We were pressing strongly and trying to find the breakthrough when Liam scored a magical goal that gave us momentum to win the game.
“At the end of that season, Liam moved on to Manchester United but had already made a strong mark at Celtic Park and the players were extremely disappointed to see him go. Liam’s passing is very sad and he will be greatly missed. He was an excellent footballer and a fantastic man.”
David Beckham and Wayne Rooney, former team-mates of Miller at Manchester United, also paid tribute.
Both played with the Corkman during his spell at Old Trafford in the 2005/06 season and took to social media to share their grief.
Rio Ferdinand said the death of his former team-mate was ‘tragic’ while current Manchester United captain Michael Carrick remembered Miller being at the club when he first joined in 2006.
Manchester United, who will wear black armbands when they play Newcastle at St James’ Park today, tweeted their sadness at the news of Miller’s death.
Hibernian, where Miller spent two seasons, said in a statement: “We are incredibly saddened to hear of the passing of former Hibernian midfielder Liam Miller. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.”
Rangers also posted their own message sharing their neighbours’ grief.
Leeds United players wore black armbands yesterday for Miller who had a loan spell at Elland Road during the 2005/06 season.
And prior to Ireland’s Six Nations game with Italy at Croke Park, the IRFU sent their condolences to the Miller family, saying: “Waking up to the very sad news about Liam Miller. It reminds us that there are far more important things in life than sport. We extend our condolences to our friends in the FA of Ireland and to Liam’s family and friends. RIP.”