Big Interview: David Miller so proud to follow in legendary father’s footsteps

Part One: Craig Salmon talks to former Burnley midfielder David Miller, who is the son of Clarets legend, the late Brian

Friday, 13th December 2019, 9:46 am
David Miller with his father Brian's First Division Championship winners' medal and England cap. He is pictured with his sister Gillian

David Miller wears a wry smile on his face when he recalls the sporting prowess of his late father Brian in comparison to himself.

As a man who has compiled century breaks on the green baize, has boasted single handicap numbers when it comes to swinging a golf club and has represented Burnley in the Lancashire League as a batsman, Miller Jnr is a man of many talents.

Indeed his all-round sporting ability far outweighed that of his old man – apart from, of course, one particular sport!

“I was better at snooker, golf, cricket than my dad – in fact the only sport my dad was better than me at was football,” Miller said with a chuckle.

Considering both dad and lad made it as professional footballers in their respective pomps, then the beautiful game was easily their No.1 sport.

But while the younger Miller enjoyed a good football career, his dad’s could only be described as a great one.

Unarguably one of the most influential figures in the long and illustrious history of Burnley Football Club, Brian Miller is a Clarets legend.

Born in Hapton in 1937, he was a pivotal member of the great Burnley team which won the League Championship in 1960 and which then went on to reach the European Cup quarter-finals the following campaign.

In 1962, he proudly walked out at Wembley as the Clarets reached the FA Cup final where unfortunately they were beaten by Tottenham Hotspur 3-1.

A one-club man, the wing half represented his hometown club 379 times, scoring 29 goals and was also capped once by England.

Following his retirement from playing, Miller Snr answered the call to join the Clarets coaching set-up.

He later went on to enjoy two spells as manager – between 1979 to 1983 and 1986 to 1989.

Miller Jnr followed in his father’s footsteps by wearing the famous Claret and Blue when he made his first-team debut in 1982.

By then, of course, Burnley had dropped from the heady heights of his father’s heyday and had dropped down to the old Third Division.

Miller enjoyed a three year stint with his hometown club before carving out a decent career with outfits such as Preston, Carlisle United, Stockport County and Wigan Athletic.

Now aged 55, Miller is proud of what he was able to accomplish during his time in the game but admits it was always going to be a tall order to emulate his father’s exploits.

Indeed, playing for the Clarets proved to be difficult for the younger Miller as he tried to live up to his symbolic surname.

He revealed that it was only when he departed Turf Moor in 1985 that he felt he began to find himself and his best form on the pitch.

“I never saw my dad play,” Miller said. “I was born in 1964 and he packed-in playing in 1966, so I would only have been two or three when he finished.

“He’s obviously a legend of Burnley and it was a dream come true for me to follow in his footsteps and play for my hometown club.

“But it was difficult at times because I always had ‘Brian Miller’s son’ thrown at me constantly.

“Everywhere I went, it was ‘Brian Miller’s son’ and when you’re young, inexperienced and naive it became a bit of a millstone around my neck.

“There was also a bit of jealousy from people as well right through my school years growing up.

“Looking back, if I knew then what I know now, I would probably have been able to handle it a bit better.

“I found it harder playing for Burnley – I found I was more at home playing for other clubs rather than my hometown club.

“It wasn’t until I left Burnley that I began to mature as a person and play my best football.”

Miller grew up in the shadow of Turf Moor.

In a real contrast to the modern era, his dad, alongside his mum Mary, owned a sweet shop just around the corner from the Clarets’ iconic home.

“Amazing to think isn’t it,” Miller said. “Imagine one of Burnley’s Premier League stars having a shop around the corner from Turf Moor.

“That’s the difference between then and now. Players back then had to run a pub or a paper shop when they finished playing.

“Today’s players are millionaires and are able to invest in restaurants and other businesses and the like.”

Miller’schildhood was a happy one and he honed his footballing skills with his mates on the park close by to the stadium off Brunshaw Road or Harry Potts Way as it is now known.

“There would probably be about 15 to 20 lads all playing around the Turf,” Miller said.

“There’s a park behind the Bee Hole End and we would have games of eight or nine-a-side.

“The exit gates would be used as goals and in the summer, the turnstiles would the wickets.It was a great upbringing and I had some real good times. I think that is how you hone your own skills.

“Whereas now it doesn’t seem to happen. I used to come home from school, have my tea and then I would be out playing with my mates.

“During the summer, we would be out until 10 o’clock at night.”

Despite his father being an illuminary figure in football, Miller insisted he never put any pressure on him to become a footballer.

“I would say my mum used to come and watch me play more,” he said.

“My dad tried to keep a backseat in terms of my football , simply because it would always be ‘Brian Miller’s son’.

“He didn’t want to push me or put pressure on me. He wanted me to make my own way.

“So he didn’t try to influence me too much.

“I always used to have a joke with him – I used to say, ‘Dad, when I had that 124 clearance at snooker, did you influence me then?

He would say no and then I’d go, ‘Dad, when I hit the Indian international cricketer Maden Lal for two cover drives to the boundary when I played for Burnley – was that because I was Brian Miller’s son?

“He would laugh of course.

“In fact, the only time my dad influenced my career in sport was when we once went for a game of golf together.

“This happened about 35 years ago, but I was on the 18th tee at Towneley Golf Club.

“I had been hitting the ball miles all day and we had got to the last hole and I needed four to make par for the round.

“I got my one wood out of my golf bag and if you know the 18th at Towneley, it’s out of bounds at either side.

“As I was lining up to strike it, my dad piped up, he said, ‘Get your three wood out, just hit it down the middle and then leave yourself a nice little pitch-up onto the green.

“At first I went , ‘No dad’.

“But then I thought he might have a point here.

“So I did what he said, I got my three wood out.

“I lined the shot up and what did I do? Out of bounds!

“I turned to my dad and said. ‘That’s the only time you have ever influenced me in sport and look what’s happened!’

“We used to have a good laugh about it, but I think for that reason of me being his son, he always tried to keep a distance when it came to my football or any sport.

“He knew that most of the sports I played, I could play to a pretty decent standard so he didn’t need to influence me too much.”

n Next week: Read part two of the David Miller story – only in the Burnley Express