Hibs spirit helping international star recover from 'heart-breaking' tournament exit

Socceroos defender says camaraderie has survived January squad overhaul
Surrounded by support: Miller is swamped by team-mates after making it 2-0 Hibs at Dens back in November.Surrounded by support: Miller is swamped by team-mates after making it 2-0 Hibs at Dens back in November.
Surrounded by support: Miller is swamped by team-mates after making it 2-0 Hibs at Dens back in November.

Hibs defender Lewis Miller believes being back among his Easter Road brothers in arms is helping him get over a “heart-breaking” Asian Cup experience. Even if the club’s hectic January transfer window meant the Socceroos fullback had to be introduced to half of the dressing room on his return to East Mains.

Miller was made the scapegoat for Australia’s failure to get beyond the quarterfinals in Qatar, the late substitute conceding a penalty and a free-kick that contributed to South Korea’s 2-1 win. Hibs boss Nick Montgomery is among those who have tried to protect the defender from some of the criticism that followed, insisting that Miller could take heart from knowing how much he's "loved" by his team-mates.

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Joking about the joy of being back in the cold of East Lothian after weeks spent in sunny Doha, Miller insisted he still took a lot from being part of Graham Arnold’s squad at a major tournament. Up to a point.

“It was a great experience,” he declared, quickly adding: “It was unfortunate the way it turned out - but it was a great learning curve, and it will make me develop as a player.

“Really heart-breaking. But what can you do? You have to go through adversity if you want to thrive. It’s a pretty big step in my career, not necessarily a positive but I think I’ll develop from here on out.”

Asked whether he’d taken team-mate Martin Boyle’s advice on avoiding social media in the immediate aftermath of the loss to Korea, Miller said: “I just switched off for a bit - and that’s what you need to do. I’m really focussed on Hibs right now and all I want to do is get the wins and move up in the table.”

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There’s no doubt that players can learn just from being part of a squad, however limited their game time, at a major tournament. Miller spent every minute soaking up lessons from more established Socceroos stars.

Speaking about the atmosphere in the group, he said: “It creates a brotherhood; I think that’s the main thing I took away from that. When you’re alone with these players for so long, you become close friends and brothers to a point.

“You have the same goal; you want to achieve the highest you possible can and you’re all on the same page. When you have those similar ideas as a team, especially with the Socceroos we wanted to go all the way, but it didn’t work out like that.

“A lot of the boys are experienced, been across the world and know the way it works. Matty Ryan had a big leadership role in the Socceroos, and he was a leader; it was really easy to adapt to that kind of environment.

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“It was a very professional environment and the quality and everything to do with punctuality, etc, etc - it’s just full on and that’s where I want to be. I was happy to be in that set-up and what to do more in future.

“It was an unbelievable experience, the crowds, the quality of football, the intensity - as a footballer that’s your dream. You want to be play on the highest stage against the best players - and hopefully more to come.”

Once the jet-lag had cleared, Miller’s first thought was to get back out on the training pitch. And to start laying new memories over the scar tissue created at the tail end of that Asian Cup experience.

Insisting he was eager to pull on the Hibs jersey again, the physical defender – thrown straight back into the fray against Celtic, Inverness and Aberdeen – said: “This is my home now. The boys in that changing room, they stuck by me and were very supportive - and I want to repay them, repay the club and do it for myself as well.

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"It was a completely different changing room when I walked back in. I was going around like: ‘OK, who are you? Who are you? Who are you?’ They're all great lads and a lot of them come from big teams.

"This is a big, successful club and they're going to bring that extra spark to the team that I think we need. You've seen in previous games, when they've come on as a sub or started, they're bringing a bit of life and energy to the team which is perfect at the moment.

"We're going to unite over time. I think we just need a little bit more time.

"Since we've come back from the break in January, I think our performances have been quite good. We could have got a few more points here and there but with the way we're playing, I think we're on the right path."

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