Miller hopes third time lucky will be his time

IAN Miller has waited a long time for his chance at Wembley Stadium.

As a wide-eyed eight-year-old, Ian Miller cheered on his beloved Colchester United from the old Wembley terraces in the final of the FA Trophy.

Fast forward 19 years, almost to the day, and the central defender will today lead his Darlington side out at the home of football after suffering two semi-final heartaches in national competitions.

Miller was plucked from obscurity by Ipswich Town after impressing against them in a friendly but admitted the meteoric rise from Bury Town to the Championship was perhaps a step too far, farmed up for loan spells with Boston United and Darlington before joining the latter in January 2008.

Now a season after suffering relegation from the Football League, Miller is hoping to lead the Quakers to glory in the non-league showcase when they meet Mansfield in today’s 3pm kick off.

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He explained: “For me, this has been a long time coming. I missed out on a national final with Bury Town in the FA Vase and then the play-offs a couple of years ago when we lost to Rochdale in the semi-finals. Leading your side out of Wembley is a boyhood dream and it is a huge honour.”

The origins of the dream arguably started when Colchester-mad Miller, accompanied by his dad Keith and brother Paul, went to Wembley to cheer on the U’s as they beat Whitton Albion in the 1992 Trophy final.

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He progressed through the Bury Town academy ranks before being made captain of the non-league side.

But his life changed when, as a 21-year-old, he impressed Town boss Jim Magilton enough in a friendly to earn a trial at Portman Road and subsequently sign for the Championship club.

Miller said: “I had gone from playing in front of 150 people to being in the first team squad at Portman Road – it was breathtaking.

“But I have nothing but praise for everyone at the club. From the chairman, David Sheepshanks, to the physio, I was treated like anyone else even though I had come from a non-league side down the road. And the fans were unbelievable to me, I think they liked seeing a local lad do well.”

Although finishing in seventh in the Blue Square Bet Premier and missing out on the play-offs, Miller believes Darlington’s recent good form will help them shoulder that disappointment and produce the goods against Mansfield, who finished in mid-table.

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