Miller in hunt for hat-trick of national stage awards
Prolific striker has scored at Hampden and Millennium Stadium finals - now he wants to take Cardiff City to Wembley glory
Appropriately enough for a country which named a beer after the Triple Crown, the mythical trinity wasn't far from most Welsh mouths in the build-up to this weekend. Yet for one Scotsman in particular, today's Carling Cup final offers a treble of an individual nature.
If Kenny Miller scores for Cardiff City against Liverpool he will become the first player to have scored in finals at Britain's three national stadiums; Wembley, Hampden Park and the Millennium Stadium. Is it too much for Miller to dream that he'll record a hat-trick of big-stage wins as well?
The Scot doesn't think so. But then as he is one of the few players in the Championship side who have played in the Champions' League, the striker isn't prone to fits of insecurity. Most experts agree that if Cardiff are to become the first side from outside the top division to win a major trophy in the Premier League era, Miller must be on target. No pressure there, then.
In truth, he is used to carrying the burden. On Wednesday, he will almost certainly have to do so yet again for Scotland in the friendly with Slovenia. All in day's shooting for a 32-year-old accustomed to being a lone marksman.
"If we can ride our luck a bit, defend well and then when the chance hopefully comes along I can take it," said Miller. "Of course, it would be great for me to do the British hat-trick, but it will be a tough game. There is no doubt about it, we are the underdogs and rightly so. However, Birmingham showed by beating Arsenal in this same Cup final last year that on any given day in football anything can happen."
Miller doesn't need telling about the vagaries of his profession. After all, who would have claimed, when he turned down Rangers for Cardiff in the summer, that he was taking the safe option. If either was heading for administration then surely it was Cardiff with their debt, a repeated failure to make the Premier League and a recent departure list which included Craig Bellamy, Jay Bothroyd, Michael Chopra and Chris Burke. Miller chose well, chose wisely.
"Malky [Mackay, Cardiff's manager] was a big part of why I came here to South Wales," he said. "I knew him beforehand, played with him for Scotland and against him when he was with Norwich, and knew the sort man he was. He's a winner and I wanted to be part of what he was setting out to build. It didn't work out for me in Turkey [at Bursaspor] for family reasons and the remit at the start of the season was to get back in the Premier League. Malky sold it to me. To be honest, I don't think either of us expected a Wembley final this season. So this is a bonus. But, saying that, it's not just a nice day out as the trophy is there to win."
Miller lasted only 15 games at Bursaspor before making the eighth move of his 14-year career. Famously these have included stints on both sides of the Old Firm. With Wolves in 2003 he scored in the play-off final (in Cardiff with future Bluebirds manager Dave Jones at the helm) and in his second spell at Rangers two years ago he was the match-winner in a Scottish League Cup final against St Mirren.
Miller knows from that game that improbable results can and do happen when there's a staircase with a handshake awaiting. Rangers had been reduced to nine men when Miller rose to bury a bullet header. It completed his personal treble of the main Scottish titles – he has seven overall – and gave him a taste of unexpected glory. "Doing the same and scoring the winner late on at Wembley is what I'll dream about on Saturday night."
Miller has looked as sharp as ever in firing Cardiff into the play-off places and in Peter Whittingham and Aron Gunnarsson he has capable providers through the middle. He has been around and is hardly carried away on the hype of a Welsh weekend which saw the rugby side at Twickenham and Nathan Cleverly defend his world light-heavyweight title in Cardiff yesterday.
"One thing I would say about this team is there aren't any big stars," he said. "There are probably stronger teams and better individuals in our League but as a team it's got us to where we are. Hopefully, that will stand us in good stead at Wembley. It's just another game, but it's also an opportunity to win silverware. And that's the way we'll treat it."
Cardiff City v Liverpool is on BBC1 and Sky Sports 1 today, kick-off 4pm
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