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Nostalgic Miller yearns for rerun of final 25 years on

THERE is no doubt Joe Miller has an aptitude for organisation.

SUPPORT NETWORK: Frank McAvennie, Tom Boyd, David Elliot, Miller, Tommy Callaghan, Pat McCluskey and Bertie Auld.  Picture: SNS
SUPPORT NETWORK: Frank McAvennie, Tom Boyd, David Elliot, Miller, Tommy Callaghan, Pat McCluskey and Bertie Auld. Picture: SNS

Scotland, though, may be braced for any realisation of his powers as a matchmaker.

The former Celtic and Aberdeen winger has taken a leading role in the formation of the Celtic Former Players Association but also almost wistfully anticipates another football gathering.

Twenty-five years on from his winning goal against Rangers in the Scottish Cup final, Miller yesterday would not rule out a meeting between the Glasgow sides in what would be a shuddering climax to the season.

"This is a competition in which Rangers have every chance of getting to the final," he said. "It is a one-off, five steps to the cup final," he said. "Sometimes fate serves up funny things. I don't know if it could happen but it would be interesting if it did. You wouldn't rule it out. It could be the motivation for Rangers to get there and it could also give Scottish football a wee boost."

Miller, of course, accepts that Dunfermline and Aberdeen - the respective fifth-round opponents of Rangers and Celtic - may render that scenario invalid as early as this weekend.

As well as lifting the Scottish Cup twice with Celtic, the now 46-year-old also collected a winner's medal with Aberdeen in 1986 and was part of the Pittodrie club's last trophy success, in the League Cup in 1996.

Miller knows how much Saturday's tie and Parkhead means to Aberdeen, though some of the strain may have been lifted by last weekend's progression to the final of the League Cup, but believes Celtic are the strong favourites to progress.

Asked about the secret of Aberdeen's ability to win in Glasgow in their glory days, he replied: "That was because Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge, it's as simple as that. He had a good side which competed with everyone but there was a different mentality back then. The game changes and revolves all of the time. Back then it was us and Dundee United who were on an upward curve and challenging."

Derek McInnes, honed on winning at Rangers, may have brought the same focus to Aberdeen as manager. "It's a siege mentality," Miller said. But he added of modern times: "Celtic are a huge club with far greater financial power and a far greater fan base so it's a huge thing for Aberdeen to take on."

He will not discount the possibility of the underdog prevailing, though. Miller, part of the Celtic centenary double-winning team in 1988, then scored the goal in the 1989 cup final against a Rangers side long odds-on to achieve a domestic treble.

One through ball, one mis-hit pass back and an emphatic finish from Miller gave him his third winner's medal in the competition.

"We were big underdogs. Rangers were going for the treble that day but we were under pressure to win," he said. "That was a huge thing. That is why I say there can be underlying motivations for teams to do well."

Of the class of 2014, he said: "'Rangers openly admitted it will take them a few years to recover but they have every opportunity. They are running away with the league themselves so there is a bit of quality there and their players will be motivated."

Miller's motivation is now focused on making the former Celtic players' association a success. Although an independent group, it will be supported by the club. Miller said: "Ultimately, the association will be seeking trust or charitable status to ensure it can raise funds to help former players who are in need or are suffering ill health.

"There is a growing trend among the top clubs in Europe to bring former players back into the fold, both in the running of their clubs or performing ambassadorial duties. I made a decision to have a go at launching this by getting in contact with as many players as I could and it has snowballed."

A website has been set up (celticfpa.org) to publicise events and to allow former players to join the organisation.

"We have more than 100 members signed up but we know there are some former players who would struggle to switch on the kettle, never mind a computer," Miller said.

He is positive about the future. "These players are treasured by the fans because they have achieved so much. You can talk about the different generations and the poignant times in the club's history. The Lisbon Lions, Nine in a Row, the centenary team and the boys from Seville . . . they were all great times in the history of the club.

"There are players who grew up desperate to play for Celtic and there is the guy who only pulled on the jersey once. But we have opened up the membership for that guy and that's what makes it unique. He has fulfilled a dream by pulling that jersey on even if it was only once."

Of the association, he said: "It will grow, there will be more members and it will be run professionally."

And of the Scottish Cup? "I hope Celtic reach the final this year as it's at Celtic Park and it's 25 years since I scored that goal. It could be even more poignant if Celtic and Rangers both reached the final."

Miller thus completed a personal double in one day. He both became an instigator of a new body and the first person ever to describe a match between Celtic and Rangers as poignant.

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