It’s Miller time as Shaun emerges

Sheffield United vs Port Vale 'FA Cup 2nd Round 'Shaun Miller celebrates the Late Bladers Goal
Sheffield United vs Port Vale 'FA Cup 2nd Round 'Shaun Miller celebrates the Late Bladers Goal

He’s almost 25, you’ve barely heard of him and his arrival causes no more than a ripple of interest. Shaun Miller, we are interested in you now all right.

Miller took his Sheffield United goal tally to an impressive seven in 15 appearances with the late, late double that sent Micky Adams’ Port Vale skidding out of the FA Cup under their own banana skin.

Vale will also be among the few to tell you that he hasn’t exactly popped up unnoticed. Miller emerged from under their own noses during six years of largely unfulfilled potential with neighbouring Crewe Alexandra.

A record of 39 goals in 163 appearances hardly peppered the palate. Behind Nick Blackman and John Cofie, he was the least heralded of the three new strikers to arrive with a club stripped of one who scored 35 goals last season.

For obvious reasons, Ched Evans has become almost an unmentionable name at Bramall Lane (have you heard it pass official lips in public?) - but the void he left was one very loud echo chamber.

To his credit, Miller now rates a mention as perhaps United’s closest comparison in terms of style and poaching capacity with Evans - especially now that 10-goal Blackman is adjusting to a new wide role.

So what else do we know about him, apart from recognising a bustling front man with an evidently clinical ability to finish?

My spies in the Potteries tell me Miller loves his cars. He can also race through the gears at meal times, revered for becoming one of very few to put away all three courses at a gastro-renowned Staffordshire pub called the Brownlow Inn.

And he could certainly wine and dine on his matchwinning heroics last weekend as several members of his family are Vale fans. But, beyond the tongue-in-cheek, Miller is a well-schooled player who grew up in Dario Gradi’s famed Crewe academy from the age of seven.

He himself now takes an interest in coaching, helping his uncle - a former non-league player called Mark Lawton - run a junior team in home-town Alsager.

Brian Deane recalled on these pages last summer how United’s last climb from the third tier was based around the recruitment of lower league talent like himself. No-one knows whether those players have the spunk to adjust to the environment of a big club. The signs are the move could be the making of Miller as a player with a personality to match his talent.

They’re all ‘must win’ for the Owls

Football is littered with “must win” games. They come and they go; often there’s a next one and another one after that.

But Sheffield Wednesday versus Bristol City on Saturday comes as close to the definition as you can get, certainly one imagines for the home team’s manager.

If not, then the following week’s visit to Barnsley slips into the category. But will Dave Jones get to Oakwell without winning this weekend? If he does, a point from the derby wouldn’t be such a bad return.

Taken together, those results in either order - minimum four points - are needed to reverse the Owls’ alarming slide. Exhalations of relief all round would follow because many fans, far from a minority, share Milan Mandaric’s enduring faith in his manager.

Last week’s fighting display at leaders Cardiff, albeit ending with a sixth straight defeat, suggested that the chairman’s patience could yet be justified.

Without a quick reward you can only guess at some pretty drastic action being taken.

My Gary Megson teaser in last week’s column certainly got a few tongues wagging. Couldn’t happen? Well, it’s football we’re talking about here.

Yes, it seems impossible considering the acrimonious split between Megson and Milan Mandaric that forced them apart last season. And yet it sits there as arguably the most obvious solution should results continue to keep Wednesday in the bottom three.

Wednesday would need an immediate impact in the event of a change. Megson, on his record and knowing many of the players, would seem the ideal man to supply it.

I’m reminded that Mandaric did once take Harry Redknapp back to Portsmouth. This would require considerably more bandaging and sticky tape. But could mutual convenience - expediency and pragmatism if you like - result in a getting together to resolve past differences?

Megson, after all, is still on the payroll judging from reports that he remains on gardening leave. A double promotion-winner from the Championship, no less, and a man who made a point of saying after his stormy exit that he would one day relish returning to manage his beloved club again.

Like so many sensational things in this game, you can hardly rule it in and yet you would be foolish to rule it out. Megson until the end of the season?

I can actually begin to see it... so much is hanging in the balance right now.

Jock prepared to take bosses to court

Sheffield-based Football League referee Jock Waugh is putting his career on the line as he prepares to take his bosses to court.

I understand that the grounded Championship referee has hired a QC and will serve notice of his action on Professional Game Match Officials within days.

Waugh is fighting for the right to offer training for referees as a private business enterprise - as this column has previously revealed. Now Waugh has reached the point of no return by committing to a legal battle to end the stalemate. It makes it unlikely he will referee again but he is taking a firm stand on a point of principle.

PGMO struck him off the appointments list last summer because of their apparent belief that he is acting in conflict with their own in-house coaching.

The 45-year-old Yorkshire official, who has not refereed all season, has been a part-time operative for PGMO along with all other match officials outside the select group. He runs a promotions and training company alongside refereeing commitments that have earned him match fees of around £350 a game.

There is no longer a retirement age for referees and, if he wins his case, Waugh could mount a claim based on a calculation of his losses for the rest of his career.