Miller is used to using his head
AS A no-nonsense centre half and an intelligent academic with a sports degree, Ian Miller is used to using his head.The 22-year-old is also determined that his head won't be turned by the bright lights and fame that follow a professional footballer.
By Derek Davis
AS A no-nonsense centre half and an intelligent academic with a sports degree, Ian Miller is used to using his head.
The 22-year-old is also determined that his head won't be turned by the bright lights and fame that follow a professional footballer.
But even for this level-headed lecturer and defender, used to the hurly-burly of a busy box, the last few weeks have been a whirlwind that has seen Miller plucked from non-league obscurity to joining a Championship outfit, hell-bent on reaching the Premiership.
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Miller said: “This is something I never expected when I joined the Bury football camp and West Suffolk College. Never once did anyone promise me that I would become a professional footballer and never once did I think it would happen - until now.”
The Essex boy's journey almost ended before it got going when, as a nervous and raw 16-year-old, he found himself mixing with those he at first believed were bigger and better.
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Miller had been spotted and recruited for the fledgling West Suffolk College football school by Danny Laws while playing in the Colchester and District Sunday League and went on to skipper Bury Town.
He had to adapt from being a bright schoolboy at Honeywood School in Coggeshall, to combining training and studying.
Miller said: “I can remember the first training session with the football school at 16 and coming home with blisters all over my feet. I said to my dad that I didn't think I could stand it. But he encouraged me and I carried on.
“I used to be sitting quietly in the corner in the changing room with these lads, many of whom had been released by pro clubs, and there was me from a Sunday league side.
“Now I have come from non-league with Bury Town and I'm in the dressing room with these professionals. It is a monstrous jump to make but I can still remember how I felt then and I use that now.”
While making his name at Ram Meadow, winning three player of the year awards and helping Bury to last year's FA Vase semi-final, Miller never neglected his studies, and after three years studying at WSC completed his degree in sport, health and exercise at the Anglia Polytechnic University in Chelmsford.
He has worked at WSC as a teacher trainer and is particularly interested in working with autistic and disabled students, and intends carrying on doing that in his spare time.
Miller has also completed the first stage of the FA coaching badges and is looking to continue to use those skills. His contract with the Blues is until the end of the season with an option for a longer deal if he earns it, so sensibly he is looking at the long term.
He said: “I can't imagine life in an office. I would need to be doing something outdoors and being involved in football.
“My family and friends are all really chuffed for me, although my dad won't believe it until the paperwork is all signed and sealed.
“But they also know me well enough to know that I won't change inside. I will not be getting all Bertie Big Boots. I will still see my friends at West Suffolk and help out on the coaching and teaching side when I can. I will also still go and watch Bury Town on a Tuesday night if I can.
“I fully intend to make the most of this chance but I am not going to let it rule my life.”
That said, Miller fully intends to force his way into the first-team reckoning and is not satisfied with just winning a contract.
He said: “It is not enough just to say I have signed for Ipswich Town as a professional. I'm not going there just to make up the numbers or be a bit-part player.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for me and I don't want to let myself or anyone else down.
“When the training group splits into two, I don't want to be among the reserves looking across at the first team - I want to be part of that group.”
Miller is the first player to make the big jump from Bury Town to Ipswich Town since Simon Milton, who didn't make a bad fist of it, going on to play more than 300 times for Ipswich with 55 goals between 1987 and 1998, with loans spells at Torquay and Exeter in the early days.
Miller said: “Simon Milton has been there so he is an ideal person at the club to turn to. He can tell me about the mistakes he made in the early days and help me in the right direction.”
The likeable and popular defender will be missed by the Ryman League outfit, but he also knows he will miss them as they have played a big part in his life. He said: “I have had a fabulous time with the Bury football school, WSC and Bury Town. People like Richard Wilkins have helped me enormously and I will always be grateful for that.
“The supporters too at Bury Town have been fantastic to me, they have helped and encouraged me and the team all along the way.”
Although he still has some way to go until that big first-team debut, Miller is already heading in the right direction at Portman Road and looks capable of giving many other young aspiring footballers in the lower levels food for thought.