From the Govan to the Gantry-An Interview with RTV's Tom Miller (part 1)
- 09 August 2012
Only 3 months ago on the 13th May Rangers wrapped up a truly miserable season with a comfortable 4-0 away win against St Johnstone. Hours before the game, news had broken that Charles Green would end the conjecture and be the man who would take control of administration hit Rangers. When the final whistle was blown the battle had only just begun.
For those watching the game via Rangers TV, the feeling amongst the Rangers support was to be summed up perfectly by the usually jovial voice of Tom Miler. A man known for coining humorous nicknames such as ‘The Kirkintilloch Express’ and ‘The Ulster Gazelle’ broke from the norm as he threw away the match notes and spoke from the heart:
‘But less we forget - Rangers Football Club is a 140 year old institution. It’s been a horrible season. The season has come to a close on the park- the curtain may be down, but it’s only an interval. Rangers will be back stronger, bigger and more determined than ever. Whether it’s Charles Green or whoever at the tiller to run this famous football club with 54 titles under its belt - more than any football clubs in the world-Rangers Football Club will prevail. Charles Green has put together a consortium that he believes will preserve the future of this football club…140 years have come and gone…will you bet against a further 140 years for Rangers Football Club? I wouldn’t. On the field today in fine form, sure they are been one or two hiccups since administration, however the determination the character and the professionalism of everyone within this football club has delivered big time over recent months. The trauma is not yet over, there is work to be done. We wish Charles Green every success; with these fans expectation levels remain high, as I said earlier 140 years of an institution. These fans deserve the best - they are the best! Rangers will play SPL football next season, Rangers will prevail.’
This speech was almost immediately reproduced on fans forums and eventually made into YouTube videos. Tom had summed up the feeling amongst the Rangers support and pulled at our heartstrings. However there was no spin here, as quite simply Tom is one of us – a Rangers fan. Tom fell in love with the club after first being taken to Ibrox at a tender age by his uncle. He sat in awe as the likes of Ritchie, Shearer, Caldow, Greig, McKinnon, Baxter, Henderson, McMillan, Miller, Brand and Wilson took to the field. Instantly smitten by the club, subsequent birthdays and Christmases were filled with Rangers branded products with a particular highlights being the new ‘Playing for Rangers book’ and the latest strip! Tom recalls fondly from these times as a young Bear:
‘My favourite, other than the traditional light blue with white v neck, was the blue & white vertical stripes. I have magical memories of the players wearing this kit with their bowler hats on celebrating a League Cup Final win over Morton. 1963 I think…with a hat trick for young Jim Forrest and a double from his cousin the late Alex Willoughby.
‘I was very fortunate to be taken to Ibrox regularly but it was many years later that I was able to go under my own steam. By then Rangers were not enjoying the level of success this lad had become accustomed to but with players like Colin Stein and Wee Bud Johnston starting to make their presence felt - Barcelona and a fantastic period in our history was not far away.
Being brought up in Coatbridge and not being allowed by my parents to make the blue train (well it was that or a green bus!) then a subway journey to see Rangers I actually bought two season tickets, one for Airdrie and one for Albion Rovers and alternated my Saturdays to suit their home fixtures.
Fast forward to leaving school and a regular season ticket - before the David Holmes and Souness revolution-saw myself and four mates commit to great seats in the Govan lower stand. Rangers had moved on to a different level and following the team round the country as they bossed the Scottish game will live with me forever.’
Tom’s route to his present day roles was, by his own admission, both an accidental and fortuitous one. It began with after dinner speaking which only came about after he stood in for a late call-off at a local Cricket and Rugby club. After subsequently agreeing to speak at a Testimonial Dinner for a retiring player at junior side Cumbernauld United, he met some radio folk who asked him to get involved with a newly founded radio station – ScotFM:
‘I didn't need to be asked twice! It was fascinating and enlightening to see football from that side of the fence and I loved getting out to the games, reporting on the action and interviewing the personalities involved. Following a change of policy at ScotFm I then found myself in the studio every Saturday and while that was great fun (and experience) and learning from a broadcast genius in former Rangers News Editor Terry McGeadie it wasn't the same as being right at the heart of the action.
‘Now Terry may not be everyone's cup of tea but when it came to putting a radio show together he came into his own. With that in mind it was no surprise when in 1998 we were approached to arrange a webcast commentary for Rangers v Sunderland in the Ian Ferguson Testimonial match. Not only was this to be totally ground breaking- as the Internet was still in its infancy-it was genuinely pioneering to try online match commentary. The arrangement was Terry on comms with myself reporting trackside. I recruited old pal and Gers legend Colin Jackson to join us on summaries. All was progressing well with less than a week to the match when the bombshell was dropped that Terry was not to be used. I was conscripted to the commentary job!
‘Now, I had winged it in the studio, I had bluffed it in media conferences and even got away with it as a trackside interviewer but 90 minutes of match commentary? That was something else entirely! However, long and short of it is I got away with it, loved every second of it and was bitten by the bug for more of the same. Fortunately, I didn't have too long to wait and so started a journey in radio and tv broadcasting that I wouldn't change for a thing (well not true, ten in a row would have been a good swap!).’
Over the years Tom has covered many matches that will live long in the memory not only for him personally but indeed for all Rangers fans and, when prompted, Tom himself struggles to narrow it down to a favourite few. He recalls many a magical occasion from the recent 10 minute demolition of Kilmarnock to clinch the title to the impressive backs to the wall display at Old Trafford:
‘Rugby Park just over a year ago had me pinching myself. With only 10 minutes played we were blowing Kilmarnock away. Unscripted and from the heart I remember describing the atmosphere as VE Day and the Royal Wedding rolled into one! The season before when Rangers clinched the title at Easter Road was another day of anticipation that didn't fail to deliver and my day was capped to perfection when in the middle of the celebrations in Easter Road’s visitor dressing room I asked Señor Nacho Novo if he had a message for Samaras? The wee man duly obliged in his own inimitable style whilst wearing the biggest sombrero ever. As usual the written media picked up on the RTV interview but, true to form, the origin of such a great wee story was never credited.
‘The year before, as the title was won at Tannadice, the term "The Ulster Gazelle” was first aired. It just came out as Lafferty drilled home! Fans since relate to it and a legend was born...The same venue a decade and more before I recall watching Rangers turn a nine in a row dream into reality, a rare Laudrup headed goal was again a vision that will never diminish no matter how many games I cover or goals I see.
‘My biggest game as a rookie commentator would be the crucial Euro qualifier against Parma at Ibrox in 1999. That evening the capacity crowd were Rangers 12th man as Rangers put the then multi-millionaire Italian giants to the sword. As I went through the line ups as they came out the tunnel, the hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end. The adrenaline was pumping and I just got on with my intro with every nerve end tingling. Goodness knows what the effect the crowd had on the gladiators about to play the game but for me I was captivated , spellbound and absolutely oblivious to anything but the most dramatic theatre about to unfold in front of me. The Rangers fans are second to none and while Old Firm games bring out the best in them that night against Parma our support was taken to a new level.
‘A couple of seasons ago, we went to Manchester, the scene of our UEFA Final disappointment, but this time to the Red half of the city were our hosts with Rangers expected to be lambs to the slaughter. The full house signs were up at Old Trafford and again the atmosphere was electric only this time the Rangers faithful were outnumbered by more than ten to one! Although, as often is the case, the noise from the travelling bears for the duration of the match belied the fact they were so dramatically disadvantaged by numbers. We didn't win but the achievement of effectively parking the bus- as some saw it-for me was more about testimony to the team spirit that had been fostered in the squad and history was created with Allan McGregor the only goalkeeper to leave Old Trafford’s theatre of dreams without conceding a goal for the duration of that season.
‘I have covered games at home and abroad and every one has its own memories. 2007 Rangers v Red Star saw Nacho steal a winner very late in the game and it was great to hear myself call the goal home as the opening sound bite on Radio Clyde news throughout the next day! Have I ever been lost for words? One occasion springs to mind: The League Cup Final of 2010. I had to travel to India on business and flew out the Sunday before the final and came back on the Friday, covered Hampden on Sunday before flying back to Delhi at 6:00am on the Monday morning as I hadn't completed my work in the sub-continent. My loss of speech had nothing to do with tiredness or jet lag. Like 50% plus of Hampden I held my breath as Jela's strike ran along the goal line from post to post in the slowest of slow-mo before nestling in the net and another trophy was heading for the Blue Room.’
Those days do seem a bit of a distant memory now, but Rangers are still here and Ibrox is still home. We now have new owners and a new CEO pulling the strings. Charles Green has had many doubters since taking over and, all things considered, rightly so. There are still some unanswered questions and there have been many a suitor for control of our famous club, however, Tom and I agree that it is time to rally behind the custodians of the club:
‘Charles Green...I like the cut of his jib! A straight talking Yorkshireman for sure but I wonder if he underestimated the situation he found himself in at Rangers? The Rangers support had been left devastated by the actions of the previous regime and it was absolutely essential that the next custodian of this 140 year old institution was the correct man for the job. We were all taken with the potential ‘fans in the boardroom’ talk of The Blue Knights fronted by the Dream Team of Souness and Smith - but it didn`t come to fruition. Brian Kennedy could demonstrate sporting success following his intervention under similar circumstances at Sale Sharks in their own dark days of financial meltdown, and he captured the attention of the fans, but when the chips were down he also failed to deliver. As far as CG clapping with the fans to a “banter” chant at Brechin let`s put it down to months of frustration and chasing a dream that others tried to turn into a nightmare. Bomber is a legend in Blue but for all his best intentions the lack of a genuine plan let him down and his credibility was soon being questioned by those with a business brain. He is a great pal of mine since his days at Dundee, I hope his relationship with Ally and the Rangers support isn`t damaged.
‘So Charles Green still has the future of the Club in his hands and, despite not having the total transparency that we would all love to see, we have to take him on, trust and work with him while policing him to take the club forward. He has delivered some exciting new talent to the playing squad and looks intent on defending our position on all fronts against EBT`s and predators who signed our talent without offering any form of compensation. I have had only a limited conversation with him but I am behind him 100%.’
You can follow Scott Ferguson on Twitter @st2oh
You can follow Tom Miler on Twitter @TomCommentator