PASSION. The most valued commodity in British football and supposed cure-all for every sporting ill.
Listening to one national radio station reviewing England’s Warsaw wobble and you could have been forgiven for thinking their failure to emit a primeval roar in the tunnel was responsible for the Three Lions’ failure to put Poland to the sword.
Shaun Miller, the Sheffield United attacker, is determined to change such perceptions. Demonstrate grey matter can be the equal of graft.
His performance during Wednesday’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie against Notts County, which underpinned the visitors’ 4-1 victory and spawned two expertly taken goals, went a long way towards achieving that aim.
“I like to think that I’m a clever player,” Miller told The Star. “But I finish on instinct.
“I enjoy trying to pick up the ball in certain positions and then trying to exploit space ... seeing things unfold in a split second, trying to predict how a certain move in the game is going to work out, and then take advantage.
“I can’t honestly explain how you do it. A lot of it comes from a combination of all the coaching I’ve had down the years but, to be honest, I also think a lot of it just happens off the cuff.”
Or, to be more accurate, probably not. The polished technique and positional sense Miller displayed during United’s resounding midweek triumph can be traced back to the hours of practising he accumulated under the watchful eye of Dario Gradi at former club Crewe Alexandra.
Telepathy does not just ‘happen’. It is trained. A reminder that hard work, after all, is vitally important.
Having graduated from Gresty Road’s academy, which includes the likes of Rob Jones, Danny Murphy and Dean Ashton among its alumni, Miller made more than 150 league appearances before arriving at Bramall Lane during the close season.
Despite describing Miller as an “exceptional talent”, United manager Danny Wilson has used the 24-year-old only sparingly since.
Miller’s Meadow Lane masterclass, however, has thrust him into contention for a starting role when United resume their bid for promotion at Preston North End tomorrow.
“I guess there was a little bit of frustration coming out,” he said. “I’ve not had too many minutes lately but you have to accept when you come somewhere like this that you’re probably going to have to wait. I got a chance, though, and hopefully I took it. At least I think I did.”
“Dario was a massive influence,” Miller continued. “He put his faith in me and I’ve got so much to thank him for.
“I don’t really model myself on anybody but I’m a Manchester United fan so I like Wayne Rooney. I enjoy watching his work off the ball and cleverness around the box.”
Miller was preparing for the second-round tie with Keith Curle’s charges when Kamil Glik, cancelling out Rooney’s England opener, earned a point for Waldemar Fornalik’s side.
Should Wilson opt to reward his efforts with a starting role at Deepdale, it would be only the third of Miller’s United career.
“There’s a lot more expectation here than at Crewe,” Miller said. “But I view that as a positive to drive you on.
“That’s why it wasn’t difficult leaving Crewe because this was a chance to move up a level.”