JOE MILLER was just 16 and looked about 12 when a certain Alex Ferguson, this was in his pre-knighthood days, gave the little Glaswegian a debut for Aberdeen.

That was the best part of 30 years ago now and, while the former winger still looks young, a few grey hairs indicate that it is a long time since his era, when it was acceptable to field a kid still two years away from being able to vote.

Changed days indeed and not for the better, according to Miller, who was at Hampden Park yesterday to help with the League Cup first round draw.

The former Celtic man, a star when the club won a double in their centenary season, would like to see a return to the days when almost every team in Scotland's top tier had, in their match-day squad, at least one player who could still have been at school.

He is no fan of managers being unwilling to blood their best young talent because, as he pointed out, it didn't do him or his contemporaries any harm.

"I've always advocated that there are a lot of young Scottish boys who should be given more of an opportunity," said Miller. "I think the game has changed a lot since my day when you saw boys aged 16 or 17 breaking through. They are few and far between now.

"When you're talking about a young player now, their age is 20, 21, 22, so you're not seeing any teenagers breaking through into the side.

"But there is a lot of good young talent. I like young Ryan Christie. I think he's a fabulous talent and I'm sure someone will come in for him if he keeps progressing the way he is. That's the sort of players that Celtic and Premiership clubs will be looking for in the future.

"I was only 16 when I made my debut. But there were a lot of boys who did something similar; Derek Whyte and Paul McStay made their debuts really early, as did Peter Grant.

"A lot of young boys at that time got their chance. You had Ian Durrant and Derek Ferguson at Rangers as well. There were a lot of young boys coming through and managers that weren't scared to take the chance.

"It is how you manage that as well, I obviously had a good manager in Alex Ferguson. He brought me in for a few games, took me out, put me back in."

Miler moved to Celtic in 1987 for £650,000, which made him the most expensive teenager in football at that time and now another of his former teams, Dundee United, are set to sell their best asset to the Glasgow club.

Nadir Ciftci will soon become the third player to leave Tannadice for Celtic Park this year. It should not be long until he is back beside Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven.

Miller has no problem with that and believes Ciftci could do well at Celtic, however, the biggest thing for him is that the money and players will remain in Scotland.

"That money is staying in the game, it's not going anywhere else such as into an agent's back pocket. It's staying in the game and they can use it for their development, which is good," he said. "That's why I like to see transfers between Scottish clubs."

And as for Ciftci, Miller views him as a talented if flawed footballer.

He explained: "I have seen him being outstanding in some games. In others, you are maybe only watching him play for 45 minutes before he disappears. He would be going to a better club where there are better players round about him. He will learn more. It's all about his development and I think he would do well."