637: Alan Miller 1970-2021
A popular reserve keeper at Highbury, he was equally admired at all his clubs, and in particular by both fans and his fellow professionals at Plymouth, Middlesbrough and West Bromwich Albion.
Born on 29 March 1970 in Epping, Miller played for Essex Schoolboys, was an England Schoolboy international, and a graduate in the inaugural intake at the FA National School of excellence at Lilleshall. Indeed he was the first Lilleshall attendee to gain international honours for England being picked for the U21 side in 1988, for whom he made an overall total of four appearances.
Arsenal signed him in July 1984 as a schoolboy, and apprenticed in July 1986 he was taken on by the club as a professional in May 1988. He appeared regularly in the youth and reserves sides, acquiring the nickname of ‘Max’ from Pat Rice after the popular music hall blue comedian, Max Miller.
Miller was an integral part of a tight goalkeeping unit at Arsenal coached by Bob Wilson, first as cover for John Lukic, and then David Seaman. Tall at 6′ 3” with great agility, solid handling skills and a friendly nature, the presence of both two such top rate keepers in Lukic and then Seaman denied him the chance to establish himself at Highbury.
On loan at Plymouth during the 1988/89 season he made a big impact during the 15 games he appeared for Argyle.
Miller will go down as a serious contender for the best ever loan player to grace Home Park after a sparkling 15-game spell for the club. The goalkeeper was brought to the Westcountry on loan from Arsenal in 1988, and was an instant hit.
From the GreenOnScreen.co.uk player biography
In March 1991 he had a back operation and the club bought in Jim Leighton on loan for the rest of the season as reserve to Seaman. Further loan spells came during the 1991/92 seasons first with West Bromwich Albion and latterly with Birmingham City.
His Arsenal debut came on 21 November 1992 as a second half substitute at Elland Road when David Seaman was injured with a bruised hip and replaced by George Graham with Miller in the 52nd minute. That Leeds side on the day remarkably featured four ex-Gunners: John Lukic, David Rocastle, Lee Chapman and Chris Whyte.
Back up to Seaman in 1993 for both the League Cup and FA Cup final victories at Wembley, and again in 1994 European Cup Winners Cup at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen. Three days after the ECWC triumph he made his last competitive appearance for Arsenal in a game at Newcastle on 7 May 1994.
He made eight competitive first team appearances for the Gunners, in which he conceded 10 goal and kept three clean sheets. Additionally he play in 64 youth games and 131 Reserve matches, in which time as well as his first team winners’ medals, he won winners’ medals in the FA Youth Cup in 1987/88 and Combination Championship in 1989/90.
On 8 August, a few months after the memorable European night he moved to Middlesbrough for £325,000. While at Boro he was initially given the no. 1 shirt, and was part of the team that achieved promotion to the Premier League in 1995. He returned to Highbury at the start of the 1995/96 season receiving a splendid reaction from the Highbury faithful.
When he made a Premier League return at the beginning of the 1995/96 season he was so happy that he got such a great reception from the Arsenal fans. He loved the supporters and genuinely felt a great connection with them.
Letter from his family to Arsenal after his sad death.
But as time went on he was replaced between the sticks which culminated in November 1996 with him being placed on the transfer list at his own request, which in turn led to loans to Huddersfield, Grimsby and WBA again in 1997.
The loan became a full transfer from Middlesbrough, for whom he had made 64 appearances, to WBA in the summer of 1997. Miller was so impressive in his first season he was picked for the PFA First Division (now Championship) Select side chosen by his peers in 1997/98. His status as a Baggie cult hero on the terraces was confirmed when he lifted his shirt to reveal a ‘boing boing’ t-shirt during a 1-0 win over bitter rivals Wolves.
After being first choice for three seasons his back injury re-appeared which meant he lost his number one role and, after a cumulative total of 108 appearances for WBA, was consequently transferred to Blackburn Rovers in 2000. Rarely appearing at Blackburn, Alan had further loans at Bristol City, Coventry City and St Johnstone. However owing to injuries he was recalled to the Blackburn bench for the 2002 League Cup Final picking up another winners’ medal as a reserve keeper in a final!
Unfortunately his recurring back injury, which was the same as that operated on in 1991 while at Arsenal, forced him to retire in 2003. Whereupon he moved to Mallorca for a number of years running a holiday business, before becoming a pub landlord of the Jockey pub in Burnham Market, and then after playing for the Holkham Cricket club, to Holkham estate as business development manager at Holkham Hall. A keen horse racing fan, he owned some horses and loved dogs, shown as he won awards for turning a cafe in the Holkham Estate into a dog friendly concern.
Ian Wright, Lee Dixon, David Seaman, Bob Wilson, David Hillier, Michael Thomas Ray Parlour, Perry Groves – a broad range of ages from players all paid immediate and heartfelt tributes to Miller.
The reaction to Alan Miller’s sad passing from Arsenal fans tells you something about being an Arsenal Man. Only a handful of first-team appearances but Arsenal through and through and loved as a result. Immortalised at Anfield 89 on the touchline with Steve Morrow in their suits.
WBA celebrated the life of Alan Miller on 15 October 2021 in their Championship fixture against another of his former sides, Birmingham City. A minute’s applause was held ahead of kick-off with players from both sides also wearing black armbands.
Alan Miller died on 3 June 2021, suddenly of a heart attack.