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PersonalFullname: William Miller
aka: Willie Miller
Born: 20 Oct 1924
Died: 23 May 2005
Birthplace: Larkhall, Scotland
Signed: 20 May 1942 (from Maryhill Harp)
Left: 1 Aug 1950 (to Clyde)
Debut: Celtic v Hamilton Accies, Regional League, 22 Aug 1942
Internationals: Scotland; Scottish League
International Caps: 6 Caps; + 1 Cap with the Scottish League
BiogThe Second World War was a difficult period for every family in Scotland, and the aftermath was a slow painful recovery for society. For Celtic, the Second World War and the following years marked the lowest time for the club. It is therefore a measure of Willie Miller's quality that despite the poor form of the club and that of the team that he is still revered.
He is undoubtedly one of the best loved Celtic goalkeepers of all time despite joining the club when it was in a sorry state on the field. Willie's brilliance in goals helped save Celtic on many occasions throughout the bleak days of the 1940's.
Willie was born in Glasgow on 20th October 1924 - he initially played for St. Rollox United before joining Celtic in May 1942 whilst starring for Maryhill Harp. He was training to be an engineer and and worked all day only to then work again in training for Celtic.
Brave and athletic, Miller was a stylish goalkeeper with excellent anticipation and clean handling. Willie made his debut in a 2-2 Regional League draw with Hamilton at Parkhead on August 22nd.
His willingness to do anything to stop a goal saw the keeper pick up countless injuries (and stitches). His acrobatic saves often astounded the Celtic support and frustrated opposition forwards. He could seemingly turn his body in any direction to stop a goal bound shot.
It was however Miller's misfortune to be the final line of defence for some dismal Celtic sides and instead of winning trophies as his efforts deserved they often merely prevented humiliating defeats. The hugely loved keeper won six Scotland caps and seven Scottish League caps. Willie eventually lost his place to John Bonnar and was transferred to Clyde on 1st August 1950 after 123 Celtic appearances and his deserved place as a Celtic great assured. On his departure, many fans actually wrote to him bemoaning his loss to the club.
In truth, he actually had a relatively poor record relative to a few other Celtic goalkeepers in our history, 28 shut-outs in this period to give just a 23% rate (post-war). Compared to say Ronnie Simpson (an incredible 48% shutout rate), he is way behind. However, it must be taken in light of the whole team during the period (Ronnie Simpson played with the majestic Lisbon Lions). Celtic's team, management and tactics were woeful, and the war period and near after was a disastrous time for Celtic.
If an example was to show how much the fans rated his ability and person, then the following anecdote should be taken. After a 4-1 defeat to Third Lanark in September '46, the fans demonstrated against the state the club was in. Dispite being the goalkeeper to have conceded 4 goals that day, on seeing Willie Miller the crowd erupted into cheers! The demonstration petered out not long after. The support never held Miller as accountable for the state the club was in, but rather saw him as having buffeted the team from being ever the worse.
It is a sad reflection of the Celtic team of the period that despite undoubtedly being one of Celtic's most popular and great goalkeepers Willie never won any domestic honours with Celtic. Willie did however win some silverware with Clyde in the 1951-52 season - Glasgow Cup, Charity Cup, Supplementary Cup and the Second Division Championship Trophy.
Willie left Clyde in January 1954 moving to Hibs and subsequently retired in the close season of 1955 - following his football career Willie worked as a Whisky representative and then ran his own pub in the Townhead area of Glasgow not that far from Celtic Park.
He died in May 2005. He will always be fondly remembered.
Quotes"I thoroughly enjoyed my football career! It was wonderful to play for Celtic; they were a great club with such a wonderful support and I have very happy memories of my days there!"
Willie Miller speaking to Jim Craig
"Miller, half-blinded and limping, refused to leave the field and played in a dazed condition for most of the match. Thistle players rushed to shake his hand at the end."
Press report on Partick Thistle 4-1 Celtic, 16th November, 1946.
|APPEARANCES||LEAGUE||SCOTTISH CUP||LEAGUE CUP||EUROPE||REGIONAL LEAGUE||REGIONAL LEAGUE CUP||TOTAL|
Honours with Celtic No Major Honours
THE GREATEST CELTIC GOALKEEPER?
By David W Potter
With Artur Boruc currently receiving rave reviews – and deservedly so – David W Potter pays tribute to a goalkeeper who many describe as Celtic's greatest ever – Willie Miller.
The scene was Pittodrie Park the week between Christmas and New Year, 1980. Celtic were being comprehensively beaten by an Aberdeen side whose fans chanted "There's only one Willie Miller" in tribute to their captain whose side (which included Alex McLeish and Gordon Strachan) were doing so well. The old man sitting beside me demurred with the sentiments of the song, and told me there had been another Willie Miller "and a damned sight better than either of them", pointing to Jim Leighton and Paddy Bonner. He was of course referring to the man that many people think was Celtic's greatest ever goalkeeper.
Willie Miller is a prisoner of history in that he came and reached his peak at the worst time in the history of Celtic F.C., namely the years of the Second World War and immediately afterwards, when Celtic had a few fine individuals but a dreadful team. 1948 was the year that Celtic were saved from the ignominy of relegation. Everyone said that they rescued themselves at Dens Park on the last day. Not so! Dundee and the referee "collaborated" that day, and in any case Celtic had been saved on five occasions earlier that season when what should have been defeats were turned into goal-less draws by Willie Miller.
In a funny sort of a way, it is easy to be a goalkeeper in a bad team. One gets loads of practice! But Miller was good enough to convince the Scottish selectors to give him 6 Scottish Caps, his most famous one being the first England v. Scotland International at Wembley after the War on 12th April 1947 , when he was absolutely inspirational in the last five minutes as England forced three corners. In that era, he was the only Celtic player to be even remotely considered for a Scottish place, and he never let his country down.
Willie had joined Celtic in 1942 from Maryhill Harp while still only 17, and his debut was at the start of the 1942-3 season. Press reports are unanimous in singing his praises, not least for his courage in diving at the feet of his opponents. It was estimated that at one time or another he must have had about 100 stitches in his head and face! He also had the cat-like ability to take off late in his jump, thus giving himself an extra split second to think and judge the pace of a shot. He could also, like many great goalkeepers, "read" a game, and be in the correct position to intercept crosses. Above all else, he clearly enjoyed being a goalkeeper, acting as a calming influence to those around him.
It is a shame that one cannot record any major domestic honours coming his way. One Glasgow Charity Cup in 1943 and one Glasgow Cup in 1948 are all the medals that he won with Celtic. What a shame it was that other goalkeepers, competent perhaps but not as brilliant as Willie Miller, won more medals than he did - simply because they were in better teams. Yet there was no goalkeeper more loved than he.
One day in September 1946 after a dire defeat by Third Lanark, an angry mob had assembled outside Parkhead. Management shrewdly sent out Willie Miller, suitcase in hand (suitcases were used to carry kit in those days) as if he were simply going home. The crowd cheered, for Willie was not to blame for the poor performances, Willie said a few things to them, and the crowd dispersed, some of them having shaken hands with one of the very few heroes that Parkhead possessed in those dreadful days.
Willie was blamed for the defeat by Hearts on Hogmanay 1949 and replaced by John Bonnar, a good goalkeeper but not really any better than Miller. Then to the chagrin of his many fans, Miller was allowed to go in 1950 to Clyde , with whom he won another three medals (Glasgow Cup and Charity Cup and Scottish League "B" Division in 1951-52).
Before he retired in 1956, he had a brief spell with Hibs. He worked later in the tobacco industry and the licensing trade, but being a quiet man by nature, he kept himself very much to himself.
Celtic were often famous for their goalkeepers. One can think of Dan McArthur, Davie Adams, Charlie Shaw, Joe Kennaway, John Thomson, Ronnie Simpson and Paddy Bonner - fine custodians, and all of them won many trophies for the Club. But those who followed the Club in the terrible years of the 1940s will argue strongly that the greatest of them all was Willie Miller.
Willie Miller recently died at the age of 80 years.
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