Kenny Miller: Answering His Critics?
I will, however, concede that Miller has done better than I expected, with Boydie benefiting big time, and the pair might just be getting up there on a par with the recent Dado-Nacho combo. Yet so much of his play has a scatterbrain touch to it. He certainly works hard enough, at times running around like a man possessed, but not a great deal of thought goes into what he does and he often finds himself straying offside or closing down a team-mate's space when a wee look or better timing would reap richer rewards.
But these are things which can be worked upon on the training ground and the success or otherwise of his return to Rangers will be determined by how much more his game improves over the course of the current season. So I'm afraid the jury is still out.
Miller has been quick to declare that he has never been happier with his lot, both off and on the park, and this must surely be good if it gets that little extra something out of him when he crosses the white line on matchdays. He offers a very useful outlet when our defenders are under pressure and his movement also opens up options for our midfield men but it is in that crucial final third of the field that Kenny Miller must be judged. His goalscoring record leaves a lot to be desired and he hardly covered himself in glory last Saturday.
Mind you, Boydie is a better player with Miller alongside him. Last season's 4-5-1 formation all too often saw the big man crowded out before he could do any damage but Miller's presence, plus the forward runs from Steven Davis, Pedro and Captain Baz, have enabled Kris to find more space and, as his goals tally shows, he has been doing the business on a regular basis.
Krissie didn't look quite so clever recently when his partner was out for a couple of weeks. It looks like Walter has settled on Boyd and Miller as his first choice front men, with Lafferty, Novo and, if he is still around, Darcheville coming on from the bench when required, so they will get every opportunity to make it work and if they can bring the SPL trophy back to Ibrox (a big if!) you certainly won't hear too many Bears complaining.
But… and there will always be a but where Kenny Miller is concerned.
It has always been my view that players (or managers) who go back to a former club are only making trouble for themselves. Over the years, many have tried and many have failed to rekindle the memories of 'the good old days' but, in many ways, Kenny Miller has been different in that he did not have a legendary reputation to sully in the first place. After a promising start at Hibs, he flopped at Ibrox, at Wolves, at Ra Sellick and at Derby but, having worked well with him for Scotland, Walter clearly reckoned he could do a job for us second time around.
My problem with Miller stems from the fact that he could have returned to Rangers two and a half years ago at the start of the PLG era, only to take Satan's shilling and sign for the Scum Of simply because they were prepared to pay a grand a week more. His subsequent badge-thumping exercise after scoring against us at the Piggery confirmed to me that he was not the right sort.
This is the mindset he is up against. Towards the end of the first half at Tannadice recently, when Lee Wilkie lobbed his own keeper and Miller nipped in, he appeared to be more interested in blocking the keeper's efforts to get back than in being first to the ball and somehow he allowed Wilkie to scramble it clear. A voice behind us shouted: 'Sebo would've buried that!' everybody laughed and the entire half-time break was then spent debating the rights and wrongs of bringing him back.
Opinion varied from 'gi him a chance' to 'no fit tae wear the jersey' and all points in between. No doubt the discussion would have been a bit more heated last weekend. While I will never boo a Rangers player at a match, I can only see Miller as a stop-gap signing until a) Mr Chairman sells up, b) our finances improve or c) genuine quality emerges from the youth ranks. Until then, he will get my backing on matchdays but, when discussing all things Rangers, I'll feel free to say my piece and Miller will always be weighed down by his baggage from the past.
Winning the title may persuade many to put their reservations on hold, although the odds now look to be stacked against us. Rangers, however, must always look beyond the domestic scene for the true measure of any success, or otherwise, and it will take more than the liberty-taking qualities which crushed the likes of Caley Thistle, Hamilton Accies and Kilmarnock to make any impact in Europe. If we are to get another crack at the Champions League and want to approach it with anything other than total fear and apprehension, we need more savvy up front and, unless Boyd and Miller put together a quite remarkable upping of the ante, the manager (whoever he may be) must set his sights on attracting better players to our club.
The evidence of the weekend's Old Firm clash is hard to dispute. The lack of quality from both Miller and Boydie was so disappointing and Septic's iffy back line was seldom troubled. An instinctive strike and a gift at the Piggery helped get the badge-thumper through the early part of the season but nobody has been kidded. He is a player of very limited ability, with Boydie only slightly better, so there is lots of work to be done and, if they can't be improved on the training ground, perhaps it is time we found players who can.
Meanwhile, I'm happy that Kenny Miller feels good about how things are working out for him at Ibrox and I'll be delighted if we get a pay-off most weekends…but he surely can't be sitting back and thinking he has cracked it. Not to put too fine a point on it, he has no laurels to rest upon.