Kenny Miller: My time at Molineux one the happiest
Kenny Miller's professional career stretches over two decades – but the Scotsman admits one of his happiest spells was at Molineux.
The 38-year-old is still going strong and now plies his trade with Dundee in the Scottish Premiership.
But his time in the Black Country will always stand out and Miller feels his Wolves side could have achieved more.
He insists the Old Gold and Black are now looking the ‘real deal’ back in the Premier League, under the ambitious revolution that is taking place.
But asked if he would have liked to have played in this current team, Miller said: “Listen, we had a fantastic team.
“When I talk to people about it, I say we had a fantastic team back then.
“Once we got relegated from the Premier League, we should have got promoted back in those next couple of years, with the squad of players we had and Glenn Hoddle as the manager as well.
“He was one of my favourite managers and coaches to work for over the course of my career, so we had a really good team. But this Wolves team now is an exciting team, and the game against West Ham was phenomenal.
“In the second half, Wolves played so, so, well. And fortunately they came away with a win so it was a really good performance.
“The time I spent at Wolves was the longest period that I spent with anybody. Initially on loan for six months and then made permanent, so effectively it was five years I was here.
“Again, a great five years, I really enjoyed my time here, wonderful lads to play with, a fantastic club, great fans, so it is really good to see them doing well.”
Miller joined Wolves on loan in 2001 from Rangers in a three-month spell, before he made a permanent switch later that year, signing from Ibrox for £3million in a four-and-half-year deal.
He was to become a key player on Wolves’ road back to England’s top flight. He joined as a young footballer venturing for the first time as a professional outside his native Scotland. And Miller will always be thankful for the warm reception he received from his team-mates.
“For a young lad to come down from Scotland, I couldn’t have really hoped for a better group to come into,” he said.
“ A lot of the lads still speak to me now. Joleon Lescott, I still keep in touch with him, and Blakey (Nathan Blake) actually texted me in the last few weeks as well. I had a right great group to come into.”
Injury was to keep Miller out the side in his first season at Molineux, 2001/02, where Wolves narrowly missed out on promotion.
They were pipped to the second automatic promotion spot by arch rivals Albion, after a late slump in form which saw them finish third in the league, before they lost against Norwich City in the play-off semi-final.
But Miller came back into the starting Xl at the beginning of 2002/03 – and his return proved pivotal.
He scored 24 goals in 43 appearances that season, including his all-important play-off final goal at the Millennium Stadium.
That goal was his favourite one for Wolves – out of the 52 he netted in 167 appearances between 2001 and 2006.
And that season itself, winning promotion through the play-offs, was Miller’s favourite at Molineux because of the magnitude of their achievement.
Wolves, who finished fifth in the league under manager Dave Jones, beat Reading over two semi-final legs before sweeping aside Sheffield United 3-0 in the final, Miller scoring the third goal on the stroke of half-time when he flicked a cross, from close-range, over the goalkeeper.
He said: “The play-off goal was obviously a big goal to get right before half-time. Without saying it, we were all sitting in the dressing room that day thinking ‘we are 3-0 up here, this is it, like, we are up!’
“It is one of the only games, actually, where I have felt nervous going into a game. I knew everything that was at stake, for the club, and for us, the players, as well.
“Obviously, the promotion season is a stand out one, both for me personally, and obviously for the team.
“We really fell at that final hurdle the year before, we had a real (bad) spell in the last 10 games and it was a bitter pill to swallow when it is your nearest rivals that go up and take your automatic spot off you. That was really disappointing.
“But the following season, we righted the wrong, we finished the season strongly. We went into the play-offs different after being on a downer the year before – whereas that year we were on a high and enjoying some really good form and, again, a day at the Millennium Stadium I will never forget.
“We managed to get promoted to the Premier League in I think 21 years and three months. We knew how much it ment to the fans.”
After just one season in the Premier League, Wolves were relegated back to the second division following a rock-bottom finish.
And Miller had fallen down the striking pecking order under Jones, and in that summer he handed in a transfer request.
However, he stayed on at Wolves and went on to score 20 goals in 43 appearances that season. And after Jones was sacked in November that year, Miller established a good relationship with new manager Hoddle.
The Scotsman eventually saw out his contract until the end of the 2005/06 season, where he then left for Scotland and joined Celtic on a free transfer.
Since then he has enjoyed spells with Derby, Bursaspor in Turkey, Vancouver Whitecaps in Canada, alongside two separate spells at Rangers and one at Cardiff City.
This year, Miller – who is at the twilight stages of his playing career – took up a player-manager role with Livingston in the Scottish Premiership. But that spell only lasted for seven weeks. The club wanted him to focus solely on the management side of the job, while Miller still wanted to play.
A mutually parting of the ways followed and Miller signed for his current club Dundee.
However, with retirement not too far on the horizon, he wants to get back into coaching at some stage of his career.
“Part of the reason the management thing was appealing was because I was still a player, still a player-manager, so I was still able to play,” said Miller.
“Things just never went quite how I wanted them to go,” he said. “It was probably best that I came to that decision (of parting ways). But I am delighted to be back playing. I am fully focused on being a player for Dundee with Neil McCann – an ex-player for club an country – and I am really excited moving forward.
“But I have aspirations to get back into coaching, there is absolutely no doubt about it that.”
“That has always been part of my plan, to go into coaching and management. This (role at Livingston) was an opportunity which was a little bit early. It was great, I really enjoyed it, but it would have been better in a year, two years or three years time.
“Whatever it is that is definitely part of the plan. You never know what football is going to throw at you. Opportunities could be round the corner, who knows.”
Miller is fondly remembered by Wolves fans – but he isn’t the only Scotsman to have caught the eye. His fellow countryman Barry Douglas proved a hit last season as he helped Wolves earn promotion back to the Premier League, before he was sold to Leeds United in the summer. And that transfer came as a surprise to Miller.
“I don’t know him personally,” he said. “I know he had a fantastic season last year and I was a bit surprised that they let him move on in the summer. He has very good free-kicks, I think he scored a few goals from that position as well. But he has moved on now so it is part and parcel of football.”
But while Miller feels Douglas is a loss to Wolves, he believes they are filled with exciting talent throughout the field.
And he revealed his favourite players are Ruben Neves and Matt Doherty – with the latter in his ‘fantasy football team’.
“Ruben Neves looks like an outstanding player,” said Miller. “Again, he was bought for a good chunk of money, but that never guarantees (success) and are you going to settle into the British game?
“But he very much hit the ground running last year. Some of the goals he scored were absolutely outstanding, and again he has carried it into this season.
“But there are so many good players in this team. I really like Doherty as well, at right-wing-back. He is in my fantasy team!
“I thought he had a fantastic season last year as well and, again, once you start investing in the teams they don’t hold on to many players, so it shows his value to the team.”
And while he had future managerial plans of is own, Miller has been impressed by manager Nuno Espirito Santo, who guided Wolves to the Premier League last season after earning promotion from the Championship.
And now back in England’s top flight, Miller believes Wolves are more than capable of holding their own.
“They have been up and down a few times since I left but they look the real deal at the moment,” said Miller. “I know they have had some heavy investment in the team over the last few years but it doesn’t always guarantee success, so they have obviously got a fantastic manager and a great group of boys who at the moment look like they are more than capable of establishing themselves in the Premier League.
“In regards to the start, I think There is no reason why they can’t stabilise themselves, I would fully expect them too.
“They have got an exciting group of players. When you come off the back of a really successful season, you look to just maintain that going into the next season and they have done it.
“They have had some fantastic results so far, the Manchester City game obviously stands out, and to go away to West Ham and get an away win, and you are always looking to get these first on the board, first away win, first goal, first points, so they have got off to a really good start so I fully expect them, come this time next season, to be playing Premier League football.”