When I was a little boy, around the age of 6 or 7, my Dad, my maternal Grandpa and my uncles used to gather round the kitchen table and have a good natter over a cup of tea. Being a man from Leith, Dad was a good ‘’Hibbie’ but the others were all Celtic fans. Like most wee boys in those days, I just sat there quietly, listening to the chat and taking in all the names, places and matches.
From what I heard, though, it did not appear to be a good time for Celtic. In fact, they were driving their fans into fits of despair with the inconsistency of their performances and round that table, more than one of their players got a real going-over for – depending on the moment – their lack of skill, poor shooting ability or doubtful fitness. However, there was one exception to the general criticism and in all the times I spent at that table, I never heard anyone say a bad word about goalkeeper Willie Miller.
During the latter part of the war years and into the post-war period, Willie’s displays were the stuff of legend. “Miller’s brilliance defied Hearts time after time” (1943) ; “excellent goalkeeping by Miller” ( v Hearts 1944) ; “Miller had a magnificent second-half” (v Rangers 1945); “a keeper in a million” (v Rangers 1946). These were just some of the fulsome tributes paid to Willie Miller during the years from 1942 to 1950, during which he made 265 appearances, with 64 shutouts, a remarkable figure considering the quality of the defence he played behind.
On this day, though, in 1950, Willie Miller, at the relatively young age of 26, made the move across the city to Clyde, where he was inundated with mail from Celtic fans devastated at the departure of their hero from the Hoops.