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Miller up for task of filling big shoes

LEE MILLER has begun to look the part as Kilmarnock's No.9.

Kilmarnock's Lee Miller in training ahead of the new SPFL Premiership season. Picture: SNS
Kilmarnock's Lee Miller in training ahead of the new SPFL Premiership season. Picture: SNS

His new guise has been embroidered over the past three weeks with the addition of training gear bearing his squad number, while a home shirt with his surname printed on the back awaits the 31-year-old at Rugby Park.

He is by now unmistakably the club's main striker for the new campaign, a look set off further by the assured performance given by Miller during a pre-season friendly with Annan Athletic on Saturday.

References to his predecessor have not been so well disguised; Miller signed a two-year contract, his arrival followed immediately by allusions to Kris Boyd. Those have been manifest either in direct questions from the media or in the form of a young autograph hunter who approached Miller earlier this month while wearing a Rangers jersey with "Boyd 9" printed on it.

It at first drew a smile from Miller but also an acknowledgement that the name will be hard to escape this season.

Kilmarnock have been occupied with the recruitment of new players this summer, Miller having signed on the same day as midfielder Paul Cairney, while forward Josh Magennis, defenders Jamie Hamill and Mark Connolly and winger Tope Obadeyi comprise the other transfer business to be completed so far. Yet there is still a void to fill at the Ayrshire club. Boyd rejoined Rangers last month as a footballer who had done the work of 13 men last term, or at least that was how many of his Kilmarnock team-mates it took to match his tally of 22 goals.

Miller has been careful to distance himself from the suggestion that he will follow in Boyd's footsteps - he is expected to avoid ending up in the SPFL Championship next season, after all - but has kept an account of his talents close at hand, should the former Aberdeen striker be obliged to remind anyone. "I'd like to think there is much more to my game than just scoring goals," said Miller, whose most prolific season came in 2002/03 when he scored 19 times for a Falkirk side which finished top of the first division but was not permitted into the top flight.

"I've been away from Scotland for four or five years and had indifferent spells at Middlesbrough, Notts County and Carlisle. I've returned a much better player. Being down there has made me stronger physically and mentally. I also don't need to rely on pace because I never had any in the first place; it's all about reading the game and being in the right place at the right time. I also want to win my flick-ons. God, I'm making myself sound like a 'worldy' striker!"

His reputation was impressive enough already that he was sought by a plethora of clubs on either side of the border following his release by Carlisle United at the end of last season. Miller - whose cv is burnished further by three international caps - had resolved to return to Scotland, indeed he had moved his children north again during the previous campaign.

"It was the right to come home. I've had a lot of things with my family and family will always come first," said Miller, who lost his wife to illness two years ago.

"When I was playing with Carlisle I stayed up here and commuted. I had lots of offers from England and Scotland. It was flattering. I've made my decision to join Kilmarnock and I want to help us have a successful season, do well in the cups and aim for a top-six finish. I feel we can do that with the players here."

And without one, in particular.

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