Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Could Indy Eleven Attract Another Vancouver Connection?

Kenny Miller captained Vancouver under head coach Martin Rennie. (Photo: USA Today Sports)

By: James Cormack

Firstly, I will begin by saying everything written here is 'mostly' speculative. One or two things that I have observed in recent months across the world of Internet have caused me to connect a few dots, but this article at the end of the day is based on a "what if" scenario and those dots may have appeared before my eyes as a result of standing up too quickly.


When I first heard that Martin Rennie was going to be the new head coach of Indy Eleven the very first name that popped into my head was Kenny Miller and whether he could be a potential signing for Indy Eleven after his contract runs out at the end of the 2017/2018 Scottish Football season.

Kenny Miller is now 38 years old and at the center of a row at Rangers FC. Following a 4-0 defeat by rivals Celtic last weekend in the Scottish FA Cup semi-final. Miller who was an unused sub in the game along with injured defender Lee Wallace were involved in an off the field altercation within the stadium which ended with both players being suspended. It is unlikely now that Kenny will ever play for Rangers again competitively, and even if his contract is not terminated he will be available for free in the summer transfer window. 






(Kenny Miller scoring for Vancouver against former Eleven keeper Jon Busch)


In a recent Inverted Triangle Podcast with Neil Morris and Martin Rennie, the Indy Eleven coach had said that between jobs in South Korea and Indy he had spent time in Scotland and England visiting various clubs. Indy Eleven has a reasonably small roster compared to some clubs in the USL and has international spots open, there is still a possibility our roster could be expanded during the course of the season.

I have never hidden my allegiance to a particular club in Scotland but it would have no bearing on signing such a player. Kenny Miller is a true professional and is a player I respect. He is one of only five players in Scottish football history to have played for both Celtic FC and Rangers FC, a small list which also includes former New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC manager Mo Johnston. Miller and Johnston probably the two most publicized, for those interested the other three are Alfie Conn, Steven Pressley, and Mark Brown.

He is in a position as a player now where he has to consider his future options. A spell in the USA or any other country away from the sometimes rancid and highly intrusive Scottish Press may be a beneficial move for Miller. There is potential that Kenny Miller could come to the US for a reasonably low wage to continue being involved in the game around people he knows.

Indy Eleven has looked at other Scottish International players before and showed interest in signing James McFadden back in 2015 before he returned for a third and final spell at Motherwell. With McFadden I was not so sure, it was a big risk that would have paid off well but the potential for injury was high. McFadden is now 35 and playing with Queen Of The South but has only played 20 games in three years.



Scotland legend James McFadden was once on Indy Eleven's radar (Photo: Record Sport)

Considering that this is something that may never even happen, if signing Kenny Miller was an option available to Martin Rennie and Indy Eleven, what would the pros and cons of signing a veteran international striker be?

Pros...

The USL season is long and drawn out, it may not have as many games as some leagues in Europe, but considering lower division clubs in the USA generally have smaller rosters, it can be quite taxing on a squad if a few key long-term injuries pop up. Kenny Miller can play as the lone forward or behind a striker playing out of attacking midfield. To have such a player at your disposal is a luxury because even at his age when Kenny takes to the field, Kenny produces.

With a wealth of international and club experience, Miller would bring an added level of knowledge and professionalism to the training ground as well as to the field on match days. If he were to decide to hang up his boots right now he could pretty much walk into a junior coaching role anywhere. Kenny has a combined 77 caps for Scotland, 69 of which are at full senior international level. 



Miller celebrates scoring against England at Wembley in 2013 (Photo: Getty Images)

On the domestic front, Miller has made over 600 professional appearances the bulk of which were at Rangers FC and Wolverhampton but also Hibernian, Celtic, Derby County, Bursaspor, Cardiff City and Vancouver Whitecaps.

Martin Rennie knows Miller and he knows what he will get from him, just as he knows what he will get from Matt Watson. Rennie knows he does not have to train or develop Miller in any way, he knows where he can put him and reap the benefits. If the coach believes he really needs a Kenny Miller and can convince an already out of pocket owner he could increase his chances of winning a USL championship by adding this player it might happen.

I will touch on age in both sections. In Scotland people might say "he's no Spring Chicken!" well he is not, but he is a very fit player, some players play long some don't but Kenny Miller is someone who looks after himself very well. He could easily play out the rest of 2018 at a higher level than USL and possibly another season. From my experience of Kenny Miller and from having seen him play this year and last, age is far from being a concern.

Cons...

Do we need another striker? Kenny Miller is pretty much an out and out striker, but like other aging strikers in Scotland like Scott McDonald, he can slip back into a number 10 role and play behind the forwards as an attacking midfielder. Kenny's vision and distribution I would never question, he is a very technical player and combined with time served in the professional game most of his touches on the field are instinctive

Indy Eleven has numerous striking options including Jack McInerney, Justin Braun, Soony Saad, Eugene Starikov and Ben Speas. Adding another striker into the mix could be seen both as a luxury and a disruption. Indy Eleven is on three wins from four matches and three of our four goals have come from strikers so why bother?



Kl├ęberson preseason 2015. Indy has had mixed success with marquee players. There is always a risk.

Then there is the financial side versus the risk. We all know Kleberson was a big risk, he likely sucked up a large portion of an inaugural team player budget and spent a lot of time injured. Since then Indy has signed Gerardo Torrado at age 36 and Jon Busch at age 39 who were both an important part of reaching a championship final in 2016. While Torrado and Busch paid off there is still the chance that could all have gone wrong as well.

Indy Eleven leaks money as most lower division US teams do, playing catch up in a new league and in a new stadium is probably not helping, it's not really a time for taking risks and if Kenny Miller expects to be paid well then its a no go area for me.


Kenny Miller is 38 years old and is still incredibly fit but it would only take one bad turn on field turf or one crunching lower division tackle to potentially turn him into a money pit for the rest of the year. I don't think that would happen but it always has to be considered as a possibility.

Is Kenny Miller a household name? Not in this country, probably not. He is not a Didier Drogba, nor is he as well known to the average Joe in the USA as Kleberson, Torrado, Busch or Joe Cole may be. Paying a large amount for him to come here is probably not going to see a huge rise in ticket sales. Followers of MLS will have heard of him, he played 43 games for Vancouver Whitecaps from 2012-2014 scoring 13 goals.

Note. Now that I have mentioned the Drogba, he is 40 years old and scored for Phoenix Rising last week in a 1-0 victory over LA Galaxy II... age shmage.


Would I sign Kenny Miller if I was given the green light?

Short answer, yes. It's a difficult one though, if it was financially viable then I definitely would, I don't see it as a huge risk as he is still playing at the top level in his country and still producing, he is physically fit and probably more fit than most players at his age. Miller is a well-disciplined professional, he looks after himself well and when you see him play now that is highly visible. The big question, as mentioned earlier, do we need such a player?


I am highly impressed with the squad of players we already have and there is ample competition for starting positions up front. I think I would not be against it provided it does not cause a disruption amongst the team, I don't think it would and honestly I don't think Kenny Miller would come here expecting to go straight on to the field, he would come here to help in whatever capacity he can for a former coach. Kenny Miller is very much from the old school of thought where you don't just get something for turning up, it has to be earned.



(Kenny Miller scoring on April 7th, 2018 against Dundee in the SPL)

Even though Indy Eleven may not need another striker right now, I do think it would benefit to add one or two players to this roster given the injury problems we have already seen and the amount of games left to play including potential postseason matches.

That will probably be the hardest part, convincing an owner and the general supporter that we need to bring in a player who is, without doubt, a huge player, but is not a name that is going to make everyone go "Woah, really?".

Also consider, given that I am a die hard Celtic fan and have taken the time to even write about a current Rangers player and even post a video of them playing fitba (yuck) speaks volumes about the respect Kenny Miller commands as a professional and a Scottish International. He is definitely not the type of player who sets out to be hated, and I certainly would not complain if he lands in Indianapolis.



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