KELLY’S EYE ON HARTLEPOOL UTD: Tommy Miller great hero

THE CHASSE Tommy Miller. Photograph by FRANK REID

THE CHASSE Tommy Miller. Photograph by FRANK REID

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SOMEONE said to me a week or two back ‘you are always writing about your favourite people in that rubbish you put in your column.

I thanked my editor for her kind words.

But I’m hardly going to mention people I don’t like – unless, of course, it’s Alan Pardew or my (lovely) wife, I’m only joking Mrs K.

This week, Kelly’s Eye makes no apology (for a change) for highlighting another favourite – Super Tommy Miller.

The former Hartlepool United legend is saved in my mobile phone as Tommy Miller 8, in tribute not to his old squad number but more for the weekly mark my then Pools writers, Alam Khan and Samantha Lee would regularly award the midfield marvel in the Mail on a Monday.

Now though, it will have to display Tommy Miller 500.

The midfielder, now approaching veteran status, will play his 500th senior game at Gigg Lane on Saturday.

Miller has done sterling service for Ipswich Town, Sunderland, Preston, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield

rsfield and Swindon, where he was briefly in charge after Paolo Di Canio’s departure.

Not bad for a lad who was shown the door at Ipswich aged 15 because he was too small. He was 5ft 3in when he left school and was contemplating going to college until Billy Horner and Brian Honour stepped in.

Thanks to the brilliant intuition of the Pools duo, the pocket dynamo was given a trial at the Vic and taken on as a YTS.

So, it all began at Pools with game one in October 1997, when he came on as a sub for Stephen Halliday in a 3-1 defeat at Chester, before making his first start seven days later in a 2-2 draw at Doncaster Rovers.

This writer had the privilege of covering both games during one of my many stints as caretaker reporter.

Kelly must be honest that while I can recall both games, my memories of Tommy on those days are non-existant. Soz Tom.

But how his football has left many happy memories since those early days.

Miller did become a first-choice under Mick Tait but his best times at Pools came under Chris Turner.

The Shotton lad helped Pools to the promotion play-offs two years in a row, in 2000 and 2001, thanks to some vital goals from midfield .

Overall, he bagged 35 goals in 135 games, to earn himself a big-money move up the leagues, ironically, to the club who said he was too small. His best days certainly came at Ipswich, with almost 40 goals in just shy of 200 games.

Tommy briefly played in the Premier League for Sunderland though it coincided with Mick McCarthy’s record-breaking season in charge – as the Cats set the then lowest points total in the top flight.

Sunderland aside, it has been a good career.

Of course as the legs have slowed, Miller has done less running and scoring but has tailored his game into a more conservative style and has been a regular for whoever he’s played for.

Tommy has also been a great lad, popular with his team-mates and fans.

He was always available for an interview and still is and given his proud dad, Tommy Snr, could talk for England that should come as no shock.

Young Tommy would do anything to help his beloved Pools or his favourite newspaper. Back in May 2000, we were wracking our brains here on the Mail sports desk about what special back page we could produce the day before Pools went to Hull City, where Turner’s side needed to win if they were to reach the play-offs.

We came up with a skit (if that is the right word) of Lord Kitchener’s ‘Your Country Needs You’ appeal poster at the start of the Great War, in a bid to rally the troops to go and support the team at Boothferry Park .

“Tommy, how do you fancy dressing up in an Army uniform?” I asked and, remarkably, he said yes. Pools went on to win 3-0.

Thanks for that Tommy and thanks for the memories at Pools. Have a great day tomorrow.