Somewhat of a Cult Hero among hoops fans old enough to remember the Wee Man playing. Always celebrated for ‘that goal v the huns’ in the 1989 Scottish Cup Final. A tight affair that Celtic had just shaded and finish 1-0 with thanks to ‘Joe, Joe, Super Joe’ for the third successive game. This would be Celtic’s last big trophy win until 1995.
Captain Roy Aitken touched the ball over the line on the right side but a quick reaction saw big Roy lift the ball and take the throw quickly through to Peter Grant. He launched the ball forward and from a head on it fell at the feet of Gary Stevens whose legs seemed to turn to jelly and Wee Joe was onto the ball like a whippet and coolly slotted the ball past England Goalie Chris Woods. This win was so much sweeter due to the fact we were written off completely before a ball was kicked. Rangers under Graeme Souness were famously throwing money around like confetti and had a team full of England and Scotland international’s. Souness famously said “I told them I didn’t collect losers medals and threw it away.”
Joe Miller was born and bred in the Glasgow’s East End on the 8th of December 1967 just months after the famous Lisbon Lions brought home the ‘big one’ to Glasgow. Brought up in the tradition of a typical Celtic supporting household it was an obvious progression to football for Joe as his father had been a professional for Hamilton and Swindon. He attended St Mungo’s academy and would turn out at a young age for St Mary’s Calton just like local legend Tommy Burns before him.
Miller had a good support network behind him obviously in his father but also in his uncle who was a scout for Aberdeen manager Alex Ferguson. Celtic under Billy McNeill became aware of the lad but lost out on his signature to Aberdeen. His father guided him to Ferguson at Aberdeen because of his reputation of bringing through young players. Young Miller stayed in Glasgow and played for Celtic Boys Club until he was ready for the move in 1983.
Joe made his debut for the Dons just days after his 17th birthday against Dundee United in December 84. He would have to wait for another year to break into the team playing 19 games and scoring 3 goals in season 1985/86. His stock rose rapidly with sub appearances against IFK Gothenburg in the quarter final of the European cup and a final appearance in a Scottish Cup Final victory over Hearts. The 19 year old striker was hot property and reportedly turned down interest from Italy, Spain, Liverpool and Man United to sign for his bhoyhood heroes Celtic.
Miller put pen to paper on November 1987 for Cesar in his second spell as manager of the hoops for a Scottish football record of £650,000, also the highest paid for a teenager. 24 hours later Joe Miller took the field to a rapturous applause from a packed Celtic Park against Dundee. Of course the board had claimed a crowd of 34,000, per usual, much to the bemusement of the fans in attendance. A regular practice of jigging the numbers to cook the books. Celtic blew Dundee out of the water, running them ragged to finish 5-0. Joe Miller scoring the third on his debut. The bhoy had arrived.
He was a firm fixture in the first 11 but converted to a right wing player under Cesar, providing the ammunition for strikers McAvennie and Mark McGhee and he was usually on top form. His important contribution as an integral part of the team in the Centenary season would see him flourish and his confidence was high. He was a big influence on the fight to the end attitude that would see Celtic overturn deficits or score late on to take all points and this would be telling come the seasons end with a domestic double of the League and Scottish Cup. Written in the stars, as Celtic would always rise on the big occasions in significant years and this year was the ultimate. Joe was quoted as saying “his best memory ever.”
Season 1988/89 the player was floored with a mysterious virus for most of the campaign that would provide only the Scottish Cup with Joe scoring that famous goal against the new ‘moneybags’ huns. Unfortunately circumstances and a lack of form saw Joe Miller appear an unhappy figure by the next season. So much so he made his first appearance as a substitute against his former employers Aberdeen, only to be subbed off again. An absolute embarrassment for any football player.
By the time 1992/93 season came round Celtic had appointed a new manager with huge playing credentials and a worldwide reputation as a player. Liam Brady the midfield Dynamo and legend of Arsenal and Italian giants Juventus. It would make little difference for Celtic who lay like a wounded animal in these very difficult and fruitless times. Brady favoured his big name signing Stuart Slater from West Ham who he would continuously favour over Wee Joe Miller. He spent most of his time gathering splinters on the bench. He should have been the obvious first choice but Liam Brady stuck to his own men and with a lack of transfer money and little backing Liam Brady was on his way back down the road.
While Brady was heading South, Joe Miller was heading North and back to Aberdeen. Things could and should have been much different but Celtic as a club were in a spiral downward and at this time going to the Sheep was not exactly a step backwards but more of a step sideways. Even to the point that Aberdeen finished second behind rangers in the League on his return debut season. Joe Miller would spend 5 seasons at Aberdeen in his second spell and moved around a few other clubs like Dundee United. After a bad split between player and club he took himself to Australia to play for Parramatta Power. Stints with Raith Rovers, Clydebank and Clyde would follow.
Joe Miller never received a cap for Scotland at full international level, which for me was strange. Maybe he didn’t suit the style of play or maybe he was held back by Scotland’s unusual insistence of picking rangers players over Celtic players. Well even any team over Celtic players. He would join Ex rangers hero Graham Roberts at Clyde in 2006/07 as assistant coach player. In 2009 he would join Dundalk in Ireland as assistant coach.
Wee Joe Miller is a regular attendee of Celtic games and in 2014 he helped in the setting up of Former Celtic Players Association. He is still fondly thought of by the support and for being a significant member during the clubs success domestically in the Centenary season. For me always, Joe Miller of Celtic.
1983-85: Aberdeen Boys Club.
1984-87: Aberdeen. 62. 13
1987-93: Celtic. 151. 27
1993-98: Aberdeen. 144. 19
1998-00. Dundee Utd. 24. 2
2000-01.Parramatta Power 24. 9
2001. Raith Rovers. 5. 1
2002. Clydebank. 3. 0
2005-07. Clyde. 15. 2
TOTAL: 428. 73.