Saturday interview: Miller's tales are helping to calm nerves at Elland Road

WITH Ian Miller's coaching CV boasting stints working for Sven Goran Eriksson, Graham Taylor and Roy Hodgson, perhaps it should have been no surprise that one of Simon Grayson's first acts as Leeds United manager was to turn to the vastly-experienced Scot.

The pair's paths had first crossed at Blackburn Rovers, where, after earning legendary status as a popular player in the Eighties, Miller had returned to work for the club's Academy.

Grayson, by then coming towards the end of his playing career, was keen to broaden his coaching experience so started to help out in the afternoons. It was an ad-hoc arrangement, and one that was revived when the two men had both moved to Blackpool – Miller as Colin Hendry's assistant and Grayson as a senior player.

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Clearly, working together had made a big impression on the former Leeds apprentice, who was so keen to get Miller on board at Elland Road that the Scot's appointment as first team coach was confirmed on Christmas Day, 2008.

Eighteen months on, the two men – together with assistant manager Glynn Snodin – are trying to pilot Leeds into the Championship. With two games remaining, it is a time for cool heads and, in that respect, the vastly-experienced Miller certainly fits the bill.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post in his office at Thorp Arch, the 54-year-old said: "I like to think the coaching staff works together very well at Leeds.

"Simon is a very hands-on manager and takes a lot of the coaching himself, while me and Snods fit in around him. Simon is the manager and makes the final decision, which is how it should be.

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"But being older – or, more experienced, as I prefer to call it – means I can probably see the bigger picture, so can offer advice if and when needed.

"I was a player for 20 years before moving into coaching so have been involved in the game a long time, meaning I often find I have been in a situation before when something unexpected crops up.

"It has been a strange season in many respects with the great start and then the dip in results. Everyone has been asking why it happened but sometimes there isn't just one reason.

"When I was at Blackburn in the Eighties, we had 50-odd points in the Second Division by Christmas and looked nailed on to go up only to fall away and end up in the play-offs.

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"There was no way of explaining just why it had all gone wrong, other than perhaps we lost confidence. Though, why it happened so suddenly is anyone's guess.

"Confidence is a funny thing. When you are playing well, the ball is the size of a beach ball. But when things are not going so well, it suddenly becomes a golf ball."

Miller's words are backed up by a wealth of experience, the former winger having made more than 600 appearances in a 20-year career that included stints at Bury, Doncaster Rovers, Blackburn, Port Vale, Swindon Town and Scunthorpe United.

After retiring in 1991, he was the Football in the Community officer at Vale Park for a year before stepping up to take charge of the youth team.

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A move to Wolves, where he was part of former England manager Taylor's coaching staff, followed before a return to Ewood Park to take charge of Blackburn's fledgling Academy.

A host of youngsters nurtured by Miller during his six years at the helm of the Rovers Academy went on to become professionals, including Martin Taylor, Jonathan Douglas, Neil Danns, Paul Gallagher and Ben Burgess.

A call from Colin Hendry, a former team-mate at Blackburn, then took the Scot to Blackpool as assistant manager before subsequent moves to Leicester City with Rob Kelly, Manchester City under Eriksson and then back to Blackburn as their European scout.

Miller said: "I have been very fortunate to work with some great people, who have taught me a lot. Graham Taylor was outstanding with his attention to detail and planning.

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"He knew exactly what he wanted and was very single-minded. Roy Hodgson at Blackburn was also someone I learned a lot from, as I did with Graeme Souness and Brian Kidd. All had their own qualities.

"Sven was another who made a big impression, especially in his man-management skills. He was second to none in that respect and it was a real shame when he got the sack by Manchester City.

"I like to think I have picked up something from all the managers I worked with. You look, learn and digest before bringing it out in your own way. You can't copy someone, that would be ridiculous. But you can ask yourself 'how would so and so handle this situation?'

"All that experience helps because it is rare to come across a situation where you can't think 'I have been here before'."

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As for Leeds and their quest to finish off the job of winning a promotion that at the turn of the year seemed a foregone conclusion, Miller added: "The start to the season was what we wanted to do with the added bonus of the Cup runs but then January came.

"There were so many games in such a short space of time that we lost our sparkle a bit. There was no one reason why results dipped.

"The real spell that let us down was when we had three home games in a row (against Walsall, Brighton and Oldham in February) and only took four points.

"It was so frustrating, because we knew the quality was there but the lads had got nervous. We tried to relax them by taking the pressure off, and apart from Gillingham away it seems to have worked.

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"Now, all we can ask now is we make sure everything is still in our own hands going into the final game. That would be great."

Charlton v Leeds Utd

Team news: Deciding whether to recall Jermaine Beckford after his two-goal salvo from the bench last week appears to be Simon Grayson's biggest dilemma ahead of the trip to The Valley. Ben Parker is out so Leeds will have to reshuffle the defence to cover the loss of the young left-back, while both Patrick Kisnorbo and Jason Crowe are unavailable for a game that may see the Yorkshire club promoted.

Last six games: Charlton Athletic WWLWLD, Leeds United LWWWLW.

Referee: L Probert (Wiltshire).

Last time: Charlton Athletic 0 Leeds United 1; November 29, 2003; Premier League.

SkyBet odds: Charlton to win 7-4; Leeds to win 6-4; Draw 12-5.