Kenny Miller’s long and well-travelled playing career will continue past his 40th birthday if all goes according to plan at Dundee.
The club confirmed they had won the race to sign Miller yesterday and have handed the 38-year-old a two-year deal. Dundee are Miller’s 11th different club, including loan spells, in a 21-year career.
Heading out of Dens Park to help make room for Miller is Craig Wighton, whose transfer to Hearts for a six-figure fee is expected to be confirmed today. The 21-year-old forward is a boyhood Dundee fan and entered Dens Park folklore when scoring the goal that confirmed Dundee United’s relegation in May 2016.
But he has found regular games hard to come by at Dundee and sustained a knee injury that sidelined him for the majority of last season.
Hearts first expressed interest in the Under-21 international two years ago when Craig Levein was director of football. Now installed back as manager, Levein is currently absent on health grounds after falling ill at the start of this week. Assistant Austin MacPhee will handle press duties today before top-of-the league Hearts host St Mirren on Saturday.
Talks with Wighton will continue today.
Dundee sought to offset fans’ disappointment at the loss of Wighton, who has spent six years at the club, by announcing Miller’s arrival. Dundee have scored just once in the league this season and manager Neil McCann pulled out all the stops to sign Scotland’s pre-eminent striker of the last two decades.
Miller’s eventful career includes three different spells with Rangers. McCann reports that the striker is as fit as when he joined the Ibrox club for a third time four years ago.
“We gave him a full medical,” he said. “You don’t hand out two-year contracts to 38-year-olds without doing your business properly. He sailed through his medical.
“He did have other options. I know coaches always say that but he did. When you think about it logistically, one was sitting on his doorstep.”
The Glasgow-based Miller held discussions with St Mirren but opted for Dundee. According to McCann, the way Dundee play had a large bearing on his decision.
“He knows the football we play,” he said. “He was complimentary about us last year when we played against Rangers. He sees himself getting chances and he sees himself making us more chances because of his movement. I am really excited by it.”
Miller confirmed that an existing personal relationship with McCann was a significant factor in him coming to Dens. The pair played together at Rangers in the early 2000s and were also team-mates with Scotland.
“I have a long-standing relationship with the manager,” said Miller in an interview with the official Dundee FC website. “The manager had been there [at Rangers] a year, a year and a half before I joined. We travelled through [from Edinburgh] together, we have always spoken.”
McCann noted Miller has probably put on “a couple of pounds since then – but only that”. Miller, who is six years younger than McCann, was a junior member of the team in those days.
But now in his late 30s, and having also experienced a very brief spell of management at Livingston, McCann is relying on Miller to lift a Dundee dressing room that is reeling after three defeats in the team’s opening three league games. Dundee were also knocked out of the Betfred Cup at home by Championship side Ayr United.
They will seek to win their first points of the season against Motherwell at home on Saturday. Miller, who played against the Fir Park side for Livingston less than a fortnight ago, is fit and eager to be involved. McCann has no worries about pushing him straight in.
“He will give us leadership up top and help in the forward areas,” he said. “You can only coach so much. The forward area is where the magic happens. That’s where he comes into his own. Why I wanted him in and he will be good in the dressing room.
“He is still in great condition and passed the medical with flying colours. He feels as good now as when he signed back with Rangers. Now he hasn’t got the hassle of management – he can let me handle that!
“At 38, he is in great shape. But it’s as much about what he’s going to give to my other strikers. That’s key.
“He might not be as mobile as he used to be playing up on his own when he and I played against Italy against the likes of [Alessandro] Nesta. He has not got that in the tank, I imagine. But you can play him as a two or in behind a two because when you get older you see the game in a whole different way. He has an intelligence to play in there.”
With Wighton’s departure bringing in funds, it’s understood Dundee are looking to bring in two more players before tomorrow’s deadline. Left-sided Celtic player Calvin Miller has been linked with a loan move to the Dens Park side.