If anyone playing in Scottish football right now is best placed to give advice to youngsters starting out in the game, it’s Kenny Miller. The Rangers’ striker has been a standout performer at Ibrox this season at the tender age of 37, out-shining many players over ten years his junior.
He has forged a long career which has seen him play for Rangers and Celtic, as well as in the English Premier League for both Wolves and Derby County. He has had the enviable experience of plying his trade abroad and learning different football cultures thanks to spells at Bursaspor and Vancouver White Caps.
He has won trophies, scored important goals (ten in Old Firm Derbies) and represented his country 69 times, netting 18 goals in the process.
But Miller- like everyone else- started with his local team playing with his friends.
“I started out in the game when my friend that I grew up with, his dad managed Edina Hibs, so I started there and then I moved on to the local team Musselburgh Union, where I’m from,” Miller said.
“Then I went to Hutchie (Hutchison Vale), and I was with them until I was 15. Then a pro-league started with Rangers, Hearts, Hibs, Celtic etcetera and I left to go and play for Hibs in that league. Then I moved onto full-time after that, so I spent the majority of my time at Hutchie,” he added.
Miller was not the only one from Hutchie at that time to make it either, with team-mates Gary Mason and Steven Hampshire making moves to England in their youth, and both returning to play for Dunfermline and other clubs in Scotland.
“There were loads of lads who played who went on to play at a decent level, some lower to be fair, but a lot of lads I played against too went on and had careers.”
However, few would make it as far as Miller in the game, and he believes part of this is down to the coaching he received whilst at Hibs from Donald Park.
Park is currently the head of coach education at the Scottish FA and has been assistant manager and youth coach at a number of Scottish sides including Hibs, Hearts and Inverness CT.
Miller said: “I was pretty much working with Donald from about 12 to 20 and to this day he is still one of the best coaches I’ve worked with. He was very good with the young lads, it was a great grounding and education in what it takes to be a footballer, the dedication, and the sacrifice that needs to be made.
“He was huge but really tough on us but we learned quickly and as I said he is one of the best coaches I have worked with. A lot of the stuff that’s in me has come from him.”
But as well as the influence of youth coaches Miller is of the mind that there is no substitute for hard work and self-discipline, qualities he has carried through his career.
“If you’re going to have a long career it goes without saying that you need to look after yourself, you need to stay fit and eat right and live right.
“One thing I’ve taken is that you need to try to be your best every day, learn every day and there are sacrifices that need to be made, you need to dedicate yourself to make it.
“Once you’re taken on full-time that’s not you made it, once you’ve made your debut for the first team that’s not you made it. It’s hard to get there, but it’s harder to stay there. You need to stay dedicated and you need to stay focussed and there’s a lot of sacrifice that needs to be made to make it and stay in the game.”
Coming from a man with four Scottish Premier League titles, two Scottish Cups, a League Cup and an SPL Golden Boot- it’s not bad advice.