Former Newtongrange Star boss Alan Miller hasn’t lost the appetite to continue his management career despite feeling mistreated after he and his backroom staff were sacked last month.
Miller was surprisingly shown the exit door at New Victoria Park along with coaches Ian Black and Finlay Wells after a good run of form and just six days before their quarter-final in the East of Scotland Cup.
The management team – who have worked together for over a decade, spending five years at Newtongrange after spells with Edinburgh United and Bonnyrigg Rose – are looking to get back into the game immediately and are eager for a new challenge. They feel they were sacked for non-football reasons, having taken the reins at Star when they were in the Premier League, before guiding them to promotion in their second season and then establishing them as a Super League club with three consecutive top five finishes.
“If we had been sacked on the back of a relegation or left on the back of a relegation or a really, really poor season then we would’ve been questioning whether or not our time was up,” said Miller.
“A club like Newtongrange, with its history of not winning the top trophies, the realistic expectation is that where we have been finishing in the past three seasons. I think the club have been punching above their weight and, as a result, we think we have done a good job. On the back of that, we are looking out for opportunities.
“I’m completely aware that all the jobs are filled at the moment, but our view is that we’re looking for the next challenge. We’ve not been soured by the experience at Newtongrange, despite the fact that they way they have dealt with us has been nothing sort of appalling, and we will just move on.
“This is not retirement for us. Newtongrange are not going to retire this management team.
“I’ve got time and I’ve still got huge enthusiasm for the game – so has Finlay, so has Blackie. We’ve been together for 13 years and sometimes you have to be patient.”
Miller says he is over the disappointment as he believes he wasn’t sacked for footballing reasons. He has sighted a difference in personalities between members of the committee and the coaching staff as being the reason for their dismissal.
Pointing to their win record during his time in charge of Star and the fact the club hasn’t won the top division title since 1992, he reckons they overachieved in his five years at the helm given the greater resources available to clubs above them in the table.
He said: “I was disappointed to have been asked to leave the club and I’m disappointed in the way that it came about, but I’m absolutely over it because as a management team we know that it wasn’t about football. Our win rate in the Super League over three years was 58 per cent. It was definitely not footballing reasons. From my point of view it was down to personalities at the club.
“All the clubs that finished above us have got better resources. The resources at these clubs are clearly better and higher than the resources at Newongrange. This is a football club that has a proud history, it’s 125 years old and has a great infrastructure but, by the same token, they haven’t won trophies on a regular basis since 1991 so are not at the same level yet as an Auchinleck Talbot, Linlithgow Rose, Bo’ness, Bonnyrigg of this world. They are not in the same ball park as these guys, something reflected in the stated objective of the new manager to simply stay in the Super League.
“Early on in the season when we were on a bad run, if there was a managerial change then we couldn’t have had any complaints, but we managed to turn that around and they went and made a decision on the back of a good run of form and just before a quarter-final at a time when we still had an opportunity to win a trophy.
“We were working towards bringing in stability, with good foundations at a club. We did manage to beat the top sides last year. However, we just didn’t put in a consistent run of performances together until the final third of the season ... and ended up getting the sack!”
Miller, pictured below, lambasted the fact that he wasn’t sacked face-to-face. After attending the club’s Annual General Meeting, he and his coaching staff were asked to leave before later being informed of his future over the phone.
“I think the handling of the whole thing was appalling,” he continued. “They had an opportunity to speak to me face-to-face on the afternoon of the AGM, but they decided rather than do that, to phone me at my nephew’s wedding – not just on one occasion, but at least four occasions. There is a right way and a wrong way to sack someone after five loyal years in charge and being told over the phone is certainly not the right way of doing things.”
A former Star player himself, Miller won’t hold any grudges against the club. He’ll quite happily go back and watch them next season by paying his entrance fee, although he hopes to be back in a dug-out soon. There’s only so much time he can spend on the golf course.
Miller added: “I wish the club well. I particularly wish the squad well as there are good players in that dressing-room. I want to thank the players that I worked with, not just in our final season but over the five years that we worked there.”