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so farewell then...

liam miller

So farewell then Liam Miller, the latest in a long list of players who come to Celtic, make their name then float off down south (Pierre, Di Canio, Viduka...).

The really galling thing about this departure is that he was meant to be one of our own. He was a product of the youth set up, and when no one else would touch him because of injuries we saw him through.

Miller made his debut on the last day of season 1999-2000, the day Dalglish gave the boys their chance. Like most of the youngsters that day he looked alright. Kenny had played his last card well. The fans went home confident about the future of the club having seen the kids win 2:0.

But the next season was a complete washout because of injury, just as his previous season had been. In order to rehabilitate him he was sent to Denmark to play for Aarhus under Mark Rieper. He impressed them so much that they tabled a bid to buy him but Celtic resisted insisting that his future lay at Celtic Park.

He started to make a first team impact at the end of last season, providing some much needed guile in the midfield and stemming any talk of having to fork out X million pounds for a new midfielder.

He started this season like a train, scoring and creating some fine goals. His manager was keen to use and to protect him, reminding fans that it wasn't really fair to expect Miller to be controlling Champions League games with the amount of limited experience he had. Yet some of his performances suggested he could do just that.

Celtic have been running a goal of the season competition in recent weeks, but we all know that the real goal of the season isn't included; Liam Miller at home to Lyon. More than 20 passes from one side of the pitch to another, from back to front, before a killer cross and scoring header. You can't beat it, but it isn't in the list, because regardless of how fine a goal it is it hurts to see it now.

After another master class and goal against Anderlecht his game went decidedly downhill. The press were asking why we hadn't signed the boy up yet. OFM was cool about it. He told the press that talks had begun and an offer was on the table. Liam hadn't made any noises about being unhappy with the offer, he expected him to sign it.

Then just two days after the New Year demolition of Rangers (Miller replaced Hartson as a sub), with every Celtic fan on top of the world he brought the whole show crashing to earth. Not only would he be leaving, but also because he would have turned 23 by the time the season ended we would receive nothing for him. The press were ecstatic. Celtic had been put in their place. This kind of thing never happened to Rangers (because they haven't produced anyone good enough, but forget that for now), it's all the board's fault, O'Neill must leave after this etc. etc.

On top of all this it overshadowed the signing of Stephen Pearson, a young player who wants to play for Celtic, but made sure that he didn't sign a pre-contract so as to ensure that Motherwell got some recompense for bringing him up as a player.

One reason for his dip in form had been that Man U had contacted him right after the Anderlecht game. Of course Miller then began his 'I've always supported Man U' stuff, even having the cheek to say 'I've given Celtic 6 years'! Given six years? Taken more like.

The rumour mill, of course, went into overdrive, although the most interesting thing was that the board took no real criticism. They had made the boy a fair offer, an offer the manager approved of. The point of betrayal was Liam Miller himself.

Immediately after his departure was announced it was revealed that he wouldn't play for some time due to injury. Conspiracy theorists had a laugh at that. Initially the reaction of many had been that he should never wear the shirt again, but that soon gave way to the school of thought that we wanted to let him know exactly what we thought of his actions.

His appearances have always provoked a mixed reaction, some booing a Celtic player (which is a sure fire way to kick off a heated argument) some cheering him. He was allowed to lift the league trophy, though God only knows why, but surely he won't be part of the 16 for the cup final, that would be appalling.

At the age of 23 - hardly a 'young player' - he's managed less than 25 first team games, and now he's decided that Old Trafford is his next logical step. Quite who is to make way from him is another matter, especially when you consider that established international midfielders, who aren't chronically injury prone, are handing in transfer requests due to lack of first team opportunity at Old Trafford.

Normally we finish these things with 'We wish him well,.' but I just can't do it because I'm not sure that I do. He's stabbed us all in the back and I just can't forgive him.

AB MURDOCH