IT was a journey which ended at Wembley but began in the unlikely surroundings of Albion Rovers’ dilapidated ground Cliftonhill.
As he looks back today having brought the curtain down on his Scotland career, the highlight for Kenny Miller will no doubt be that goal at Wembley, his 69th and final cap marked by a stunning strike which sent the Tartan Army into raptures even if it didn’t bring the victory it merited.
But no doubt Miller will also recall November 28, 1988, the day he scored his first goals in senior football, the 18-year-old marking his debut for Third Division Stenhousemuir with two goals in a 3-1 win over the Coatbridge side.
On loan from Hibs, Miller went on to score ten goals in just 13 matches for the Warriors, ensuring a quick-fire return to Easter Road. If Miller may have been something of an unknown in those days, he was certainly a familiar face to Stenhousemuir boss Terry Christie who had been his head teacher at Musselburgh Grammar School.
Today Christie said: “As a manager I was always on the look out for young lads to bring in on loan. I knew Kenny well because he’d been a pupil at my school.
“He wasn’t getting his game for Hibs so, nothing ventured, nothing gained, I phoned Alex McLeish and he was kind enough to allow Kenny to join us on loan. He was just a young lad, of course, but I knew he’d run about, him himself about and he did.”
Astonishingly all Miller’s goals came in doubles, the most important probably the brace scored to knock Whitehill Welfare, then managed by Christie’s good pal Mike Lawson, out of the Scottish Cup. There-in lies a tale with HIbs having initially refused to allow Miller to play in the Cup tie but relenting to give permission, with a trip to Ibrox in the offing for the winners of the replay, for the youngster to feature in the second game.
Christie said: “When the draw meant a game against Rangers was the prize, we had what you’d call protracted negotiations with Hibs and, if my memory serve me correctly, we eventually agreed with Rod Petrie to pay them a sum in excess of £10,000. Kenny scored both goals and we ended up winners in another way in that Stenhousemuir collected something like £100,000 for our visit to Ibrox.”
While Christie insisted his players call him by his first name rather than gaffer or boss, Miller, he revealed, found himself somewhat flumoxed when addressing someone who had been his head teacher so very recently, Christie said: “Kenny was a bright boy, he stayed on to the end of sixth year but I don’t think he could bring himself to call me Terry, he settled on Mr Christie. But it’s been great to see how his career has gone. I’ve always kept an interest in him and he’s had a terrific career both for the clubs he has played for and Scotland.”