First posted on Facebook on May 2nd, 2016
Willie Miller will turn 61 today. Although born in Glasgow, in heart and soul Willie is an Aberdonian, having played just under 800 games for the Aberdeen in total and was also the manager for a couple of years in the early ‘90’s. Willie gained 65 cap in total, winning his first cap in 1975 and his last in 1989 and scored one goal.
It was Willie Ormond who first capped Miller in June 1975. Scotland had just lost to England 5-1 at Wembley, the week before and Willie was brought in to bolster the side in midfield replacing Alfie Conn. Goalkeeper, Jim Brown of Sheffield United was given his only cap that day with Stewart Kennedy dropping out. Scotland drew 1-1 with Romania in Bucharest in a Euro Qualifier with Gordon McQueen scoring a last minute equaliser.
That would be Miller’s only cap for almost three years until Ally MacLeod brought him in for one game in February 1978. Scotland defeated Bulgaria 2-1 in a friendly at Hampden with Archie Gemmill and Ian Wallace providing the goals.
MacLeod would prefer the likes of McQueen, Buchan, Forsyth and Kenny Burns over the next few months and once again Willie was left out in the cold. Eighteen months later and Willie was back in for one more game as Jock Stein played him in a 2-0 defeat to Belgium in Brussels. At this point, Willie has three caps, in three different years under three different managers. Which must have been quite unique but 1980 would bring a change to Willie’s International career and he would become a regular for the remainder of the 1980’s.
Jock Stein would begin to deploy three recognised central defenders in his team for the next year or so and utilise one as a holding midfield player; this involved the likes of Alan Hansen, Paul Hegarty, David Narey and his Aberdeen teammate Alex McLeish. In his very next game this paid dividends for Miller and Scotland as he scored the only goal of a game at Hampden v Wales in May 1980 in a Home International.
For the start of the 1982 World Cup campaign Jock reverted to a central defensive partnership and for the first game in Stockholm, Willie lined up alongside Alex McLeish. Scotland beat Sweden 1-0 with club teammate Gordon Strachan providing the only goal. Miller would play in games against Portugal at home (0-0) and away (1-2), Northern Ireland; home and away (1-1),(0-0). Scotland clinched their place for the 1982 World Cup in Spain in Belfast. However, Miller had not always been paired with McLeish and played alongside Alan Hansen in some of the games.
Willie and Alex McLeish however did play together as Scotland beat England in 1981 at Wembley with John Robertson of Notts Forest scoring the only goal from the penalty spot.
As Scotland headed towards the World Cup, Allan Evans of Aston Villa on the back of the winning the English First Division began to stake his claim for a place in the team and Willie didn’t feature in any of the Home Internationals that year.
Willie did not start in the opening game of the World Cup against New Zealand but perhaps the loss of two goals to the minnows saw Stein change his mind and Willie was back in the line up alongside Hansen to face the Brazilians. David Narey would open the scoring in 14 minutes and that was as good as it got.
Then came the disaster of the Russian game with Miller and Hansen clashing with each other with the ball being handed to Shengelia to score and Scotland were out of the World Cup despite a late equaliser from Souness.
Hansen and Miller were played together in 3 of Scotland’s next four games, all of which were Euro Qualifiers with Scotland beating East Germany at home, losing to Switzerland away and drawing with the Swiss at Hampden on the night of Charlie Nicholas’s debut. Scotland as usual at this time had a poor Euro Qualification performance and by the time of his 35th cap; Willie lined up alongside McLeish for the opening game of the 1986 World Cup campaign.
Willie was an ever present throughout the qualification process which included victories home and away to Iceland; a 3-1 victory over Spain at Hampden with Mo Johnston providing a double and a loss to Wales at Hampden in March, 1985. (Happier times at Hampden would ensue as Scotland beat England 1-0 in the Rous Cup in May thanks to a Richard Gough goal).
In their final qualifier Scotland would have to get at least a draw at Ninian Park, Cardiff to qualify for a play-off. As we all know, Scotland did just that due to a Davie Cooper penalty in the 81st minute. Sadly what should have been a night of celebration turned to one of sadness as it was announced that Jock Stein passed away shortly after the match.
Alex Ferguson, his team boss at Aberdeen would then take over the Scotland team on a caretaker basis and Willie would play in both legs of the play off matches against Australia with Scotland winning 2-0 over the two legs.
Willie would play in all three of Scotland’s games in the World Cup in Mexico winning his 5oth cap against West Germany in Queretaro. Scotland would lose narrowly to both Denmark (1-0) and West Germany (2-1). In the final game with Graeme Souness unfit, Willie took over as captain of the team as he would do so on 11 occasion’s altogether. The Uruguay game is perhaps one of the most frustrating that Scotland have ever played. Despite Uruguay having a player sent off in the very 1st minute for a brutal tackle on Gordon Strachan, Scotland were unable to breach the South Americans defence and were therefore eliminated from the tournament.
Andy Roxburgh did not favour Miller as much initially and Willie only played in handful of games in the immediate year or so after the World Cup; another poor Euro campaign ensued.
Willie played in the opening two games of the 1990 World Cup Qualifying Group as Scotland beat Norway 2-1 and then a 1-1 draw with Yugoslavia at Hampden. Injury would see him miss a lot of the 1988-‘89 season but he returned to play for Scotland in the game against Yugoslavia in Zagreb in September, 1989. Scotland lost 3-1 but a draw in their final game against Norway at Hampden in November, 1989 would see them through to Italia ’90.
Ally McCoist would give Scotland the lead in the 44th minute but Miller was injured in a tackle in the 66th minute that would see him leave the field of play and would be his exit from the International stage and sadly would see him retire from playing football altogether.
Of course, Willie can be heard commentating or should that be moaning (as he was known to do on the field of play, once or twice.) on Sportsound every Saturday while watching his beloved Aberdeen.
Happy Birthday Willie and hopefully you can raise a smile or two with a glass or two and all the best.