It’s been a dream rise up the football ladder for Mickel Miller – and the Rotherham United forward says he’s forever thankful for what Hamilton Accies have did for his career.
The attacker left South Lanarkshire at the end of last season after a successful two-and-a-half seasons in red and white. Overall, he made 68 appearances, scoring 12 times and assisting on eight occasions.
Now an English Championship footballer with Rotherham, the Millers are expected to fight for survival this term after promotion from League One. Just like he did at Hamilton though, Miller is happy to prove people wrong.
“It came out of the blue,” Miller told NTOF about his transfer. “They got in contact with my agent and we sat down over Zoom. We went from there. I spoke to the manager, the assistant manager and their team.
“I didn’t sign over Zoom but everything was done through Zoom until I could get down there. It was frustrating times with all the restrictions back then. There wasn’t much we could do but we just had to deal with it.
“I haven’t been involved to see the difference in standard but the quality of training has gone up a lot. But it’s all for the better, you can only improve from it. I’ve heard from several people that do or have played Championship football that it’s a very technical game. Every level is going to be physical but the strong aspect is technical.
“My hopes are to solidify a spot for the season and try and finish as high as we can. We haven’t come up to just stay up, we want to upset as much people as we can. It’s not just about survival.
“Rotherham just got promoted to the Championship so it’s not a move you can really debate about going to. That opportunity doesn’t come about often.”
Rice and the promising prospects
Miller has spent a large amount of time working under current Accies boss Brian Rice. Whilst originally it was Martin Canning that brought him to the club, Rice kept the faith in him and continued to regularly select him.
Under the 56-year-old’s guidance, Hamilton have completed their primary objective, staying in the league. They showed their powers of winning at the right time again recently, beating Livingston 2-1 away from home.
Rice has been vocal in his defence of the club, who are constantly written off at the start of the season as relegation fodder. Time and time again they prove the critics wrong, Miller providing an insight to what it feels like to read such criticism, Rice’s passion and the key players Accies have to earn them safety.
“When Brian Rice first came in, he said it was his passion to play young players,” explained Miller. “You could tell that’s what he stood for and that’s why I think Hamilton got him in because they had a lot of promising young players. He’s very passionate about what he does and what he stands for.
“He loves to be around football. Everyone is going to have their different takes on how they do stuff but when the manager shows how passionate he is, it’s contagious, it rubs off on the players.
“It’s never over to that last game. You never know until that last game. You see it all, you’re not blind to it, but we don’t focus on it too much. We already know that players don’t like coming to Hamilton because of the pitch etc.
“But it’s one where we thought that we know they don’t like that, so let’s continue upsetting people and proving them wrong. Once people don’t expect anything from you, you can give your all. It’s kind of a good thing.
“We would go and lose two big games to teams around us and then play Hearts, Rangers and Kilmarnock, getting two wins and a draw. You never know with Hamilton, it was very frustrating. When we are the underdogs, why can we perform so much better than when we are at home to Ross County? I didn’t understand it.
“At Hamilton we always made it hard for ourselves but then we always end up pulling out the results that nobody expects us to!
“They have a few young players. Reegan Mimnaugh is now in the team, he’s technically one of the best there, even as a young player. Jamie Hamilton as well, they are the two that stand out as ones who could play at another level. They have some assets there and they will 100% play further on. David Moyo is another one I think can push on as well. With the work he puts in, the goals will come. Once they start they won’t stop.”
A Championship player now, Miller owes it all to Hamilton. They gave him the life-changing opportunity to turn pro after time with Carshalton Athletic in the lower leagues of English football.
It was a big opportunity, but that’s what Accies do. They take promising talents and put them on a platform, players like Miller proving there are opportunities to move up the food chain if you provide good service in red and white.
The Rotherham forward was gutted he couldn’t say goodbye properly to a team he’ll always have a place in his heart for.
“When I went up there it was my first professional club so I was grateful for everything they did,” said Miller. “So it was annoying that I couldn’t say goodbye properly.
“But I’m sure I’ll be back to watch a game or something, I’ve still got friends up there. Hamilton have moved on a few of their players like Greg Docherty and Lewis Ferguson. They do it for a lot of the young players and give them the opportunity. It’s good.
“As I go on, I start to think if I told myself I’d be playing Championship football back then, I wouldn’t have known about that. I think ‘wow, I’ve come a long way.’ I came through at Carshalton Athletic. Players like Jamie Vardy give you hope that you can do it. It’s given young players more hope.
“Going from training twice-a-week to full-time, playing in front of 200 fans to thousands, it was a huge jump. It was a very memorable time of my life.”