BRENDAN Rodgers, the Celtic manager, last night led the tributes to the former Parkhead midfielder Liam Miller, who passed away on Friday night at the age of just 36 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
Miller came through the youth ranks at the Glasgow club and established himself in the first team there during Martin O’Neill’s time as manager. winning a league medal during the 2003/04 season.
The Cork-born midfielder moved on to play for Manchester United, Sunderland, the Republic of Ireland and Hibernian and also had spells out in Australia with Perth Glory, Brisbane Road and Melbourne City and the United States with Wilmington Hammerheads.
Miller had returned to his home town in November after being diagnosed with cancer. He is survived by his wife Clare and his three children Kory, Leo and Belle.
There was a minute’s silence before kick-off in Celtic’s match with Partick Thistle in the William Hill Scottish Cup at Parkhead yesterday and the players wore black armbands as a mark of respect.
“It was a real sad moment last night when we got the message through in the hotel,” said Rodgers. “He was so young, just 36 years of age. The dream of lots of Irish boys is to come across and play for Celtic and he did that and had a fantastic career.
“I was aware of him as a young player and as a talent and then he obviously made a move down to Manchester United. I saw his career at various clubs and always thought he was an outstanding talent. It is awful news.
“To lose your life that young and leave a young family behind is so sad. I thought the club paid a great tribute to him today. He will certainly always be in the memory of everyone at Celtic.”
James Forrest, who scored a hat-trick in a 3-2 win for the home team, admitted the news had stunned the Celtic players and expressed hope the result had been a fitting tribute to the former player.
“It is so sad,” he said. “The masseurs here and Kendo [first team coach and former player John Kennedy] knew him. They have nothing but good things to say about him. We all heard the news this morning. It is terrible news.
“I was coming through at the time he was playing. When you are a young boy you look up to ones who are playing. He was obviously a top player. He went to Man U and had a good career. It is a sad day. I never met him, but we went to Australia once for pre-season and played against his team. For the people here who know him and his family in particular it is terrible news.”
Celtic’s official Twitter account said: “Everyone at Celtic is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former midfielder Liam Miller. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this time.”
Hibs’ official Twitter account read: “We are incredibly saddened to hear of the passing of former Hibernian midfielder Liam Miller. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time,”
Miller’s former Celtic team-mate Mark Burchill said on his Twitter account: “Can’t believe my old team-mate Liam Miller has passed away. Taken far too soon. Horrific news. Thoughts and prayers with his family at this time.”
In an interview with Cork examiner in 2015, Miller said: “I genuinely look back and think ‘I played for Celtic, my boyhood club’. I dreamed of playing for Man United and I got that opportunity as well. I don’t know how many other people can say they played for their two childhood clubs, or even one childhood club.”