Saturday, August 24, 2013

Scotland: Kenny Miller retires

There we are then.

12 years, 69 caps, 18 goals and a final memory of a goal to savour at Wembley.

Farewell Kenny Miller, Scotland striker.

If the announcement of Miller's international retirement saw many of the old criticisms of his ability resurface, there was also a strong swell of appreciation for the service he's given.

His timing is impeccable. With no 2014 World Cup for Scotland he leaves on the personal high of scoring in his solitary appearance against England.

And he forces Gordon Strachan to face the remaining qualifiers without trusted experience up front. The manager might not have been ready for the immediate future without Kenny Miller. With no choice, he has to build for the next qualifying tournament. To the end, we could say, Miller has served the greater good of the Scotland cause.

The greater good. Servant.

Running themes of the tributes to Miller. The willing servant who'd turn up - in an era when not turning up is common - and give his all whatever the circumstances.

Often those circumstances involved him playing as a lone striker. Lacking service, chasing, running, waiting for the support of midfielders who often failed to arrive.

He did all that time and again. For seven different managers. Decent managers, bad managers, befuddled managers. All trusted Miller at different times.

Miller repaid them by getting on with the job, perhaps coming close to a public strop only when dropped for an empty space when Craig Levein chose 4-6-0 in Prague.

He saw off managerial changes as surely as he survived recurring episodes of public clamour when a new rival appeared on the goalscoring charts.

For a decade Miller outlasted Scotland managers and outlasted so many of those rivals for his shirt.

He never escaped the brickbats though.

His thoroughly modern club career maybe didn't help. An apparent 'have bank account, will travel' attitude might make the most of football's new opportunities but it doesn't create folk heroes.

Rangers-Celtic-Rangers swapsies also have the power to alienate large constituencies, often at the same time.

Then there is the simpler reason. That Kenny Miller just wasn't "Scotland quality."

He frustrated this writer often enough. He should have more than 18 goals, should be higher than sixth on the all time scoring list.

Profligate Kenny Miller, caught in two minds and choosing the third option. Kenny Miller, the non-scoring lone striker, enduring long dry spells.

We could never pretend that he was among the greats of the past. But he wasn't playing with great players either.

His decade as a regular choice coincided with Scotland's decade in the wilderness.

No major tournaments, some embarrassing performances, more than a few dire results.

Miller was part of all of that but successive managers saw him as the best of what they had as Scotland tried to get to grips with their reduced standing.

He could hardly be blamed for getting picked so regularly. And we couldn't accuse him of not giving his all when he was picked.

A decent player giving of his best. That sounds unspectacular but it's been an unspectacular decade.

Some good memories, some bad memories and very often little to show in games when hard graft just wasn't enough.

Kenny Miller's story has been the Scotland story for the last decade.

If the players he's now stepped aside for can harness their potential with Miller's commitment then the next decade might just offer more reward.

So thanks for the effort, Kenny. And thanks for calling it quits at the right time.