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Miller - December Player of the Month

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Miller makes his point



Published Date: 11 January 2009

IN DECIDING the Clydesdale Bank player of the month award for December, the voting lunch to determine that honour was probably one of the few occasions opinion on Lee Miller has not proved sharply divided.

When it comes to physique and technique, the Aberdeen striker appears to have the complete package. Indeed, the club's assistant manager, Jimmy Nicholl, acknowledges that for "touch, cleverness, ability to get himself out of tricky situations and fi


nishing" the 25-year-old ranks among the besbest he has worked with. But, too often, Miller seems to have struggled to knit these endowments together to make himself a consistently potent threat.


Not so across the turn of the year. Four goals in five games ahead of this weekend did not simply land the player what he calls, "the big one". It suddenly sparked much chatter that he could be in line for the big move when Kris Boyd eventually does leave Rangers.


Miller only signed a new two-year deal in May, and declares himself "settled" as part of the "family" at Aberdeen, where he now lives after four years based in Perth. The club has now been his football home for longer than his previous four career stop-offs, and dispensing with any travelling to live in the same city he plays has been "massive" in the freshness he has exhibited. But he doesn't pretend his ambitions end with pitching up at Pittodrie every day, just as Nicholl does not flannel when it comes to the possibility of Miller being prised from them for a bid in the region of £750,000.


"There is talk in the papers all the time," the forward says. "Obviously it is great to be linked with teams such as Rangers but there are always names thrown about in January. That is to be expected and I just have to concentrate on my game."


If his form continues in its present vein until the summer, Nicholl concedes Aberdeen will hardly be in a position to reject the opportunity to cash in on a player unlikely to accept an extension as he enters the final year of his deal. "I don't like to say it, but if Rangers have to do what they are doing, the rest of us have to wait and see," the Irishman says.


Aberdeen may be a selling club but Miller hasn't always been a player who has sold his extensive attributes in the best possible fashion and Nicholl and Aberdeen manager Jimmy Calderwood have found his contribution sometimes frustrating.


"It is a strange thing with him," the Pittodrie No.2 says. "I might be out of order saying this, but we go in to the office after games and he is the first player who gets a mention from opposition managers and coaches yet me and Jimmy are thinking 'big Lee wasn't at his best today'.


"I've tried to get my head round that and I think it is because we look at him during the week and always think he can do more in games. But so much goes through him that he is going to make more mistakes than others."


It is where moves can sometimes break down with Miller that can drive the Aberdeen coaching staff demented. "He just loves playing football, but he has to be selfish and stand in the box and wait for things to happen," Nicholl says. "He can't be on the halfway line and then get on the end of a cross. He should let the full-backs, midfielders and wingers develop play and potter about round the box so that when the ball comes in, he will be within 20 yards of goal and only have the decision of whether to go near post or back post. He will score more goals that way, but it's not his natural game."


The forward believes he is now peaking in a manner he has not save for a six-month loan period at Hearts in the second half of the 2004-05 season, when he netted 11 goals in 23 appearances. That dazzling spell was preceded by a thoroughly unproductive stay at Bristol City, whom he joined as a 20-year-old after two free-scoring seasons with Falkirk, followed by a troubled stay on Tannadice.


Remaining impervious to Calderwood's intense efforts to place him at Pittodrie, he instead opted to sign for Dundee United manager Gordon Chisholm in a deal worth £225,000 – £75,000 shy of what Bristol paid for him – only to be accused of gross unprofessionalism by Chisholm's successor Craig Brewster, whom he refused to play a reserve game for, and punted in the summer of 2006. Calderwood finally got his man, but Nicholl says concerns about Miller's need to win over the support were minor compared to how the Aberdeen management team felt the subsequent signing of Brewster might go down. "At one stage we were like 'we can't do it', and it was awkward but then the dressing room banter took over," he says.


The number of Miller believers is taking over from the doubters, with George Burley in the former camp. The Scotland manager used him as a substitute in the November friendly against Argentina to end a two-and-a-half year wait for a second cap following his full international debut in the Kirin Cup in May 2006.


"I didn't expect to get on but I thought I grabbed it with both hands and was unlucky not to score," the striker says. "I'm not going to lie to myself, I know there were a few call-offs and injuries, but George Burley said to keep it going, and keep scoring goals for my club and I hope I can get back in again."


In the meantime, Nicholl is pleased with both Miller's efforts and the fact that he no longer gets opponents' backs up, which he had a tendency to do in going to ground "too easily".


"We would have other managers and coaches shouting 'cheating bastard' and asking us after games how we could work with a player like that," he says. "(The cheating] accusations were terrible, the manager hates that. But we knew Lee wasn't like that, that he felt he was being fouled. We have said to him to stay on his feet if he takes a dunt, so our moves don't break down, and I don't see him looking for free-kick too often now."


Miller is finally looking to derive the very best from his considerable talents, and his better rested body is proving in tune with that.


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