MILLER TIME

Shaun Miller is smiling again af­ter head­ing the win­ner against Ful­ham

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

IT was the last-gasp goal that broke Ful­ham hearts and sent Sh­effield United into the FA Cup fifth round. But for the man who scored, it was so much more.

Shaun Miller rup­tured his knee lig­a­ments on Box­ing Day 2012 and spent the next 10 months watch­ing im­po­tently as the Blades slumped from League One ti­tle con­tenders to cri­sis-torn rel­e­ga­tion bat­tlers.

And even though he re­turned in Oc­to­ber, the 26-year-old has strug­gled for his old form, fail­ing to score in 13 ap­pear­ances.

But on Tues­day night, just 14 min­utes af­ter com­ing on as a sub, Miller nod­ded the 120thminute win­ner that gave the Blades a 1-0 win at Craven Cot­tage, his first goal since in­jury.

And if that, along with United’s pro­gres­sion, wasn’t rea­son enough to cel­e­brate ,there was also an­other spe­cial mile­stone for Miller.

“It’s the first goal since my lit­tle lad, Zach, was born a cou­ple of weeks ago, so that was for him,” said Miller, who is en­gaged to part­ner Sarah.

Per­fect

“I’ve been des­per­ate to get a goal for him in the last few games, so it was nice to fi­nally do it. Com­ing in the last minute of a big FA Cup tie, and be­ing my first since the in­jury as well – it couldn’t have been more per­fect re­ally.”

Miller – who scored 43 goals in 179 games for Crewe – joined United in the sum­mer of 2012, just five months be­fore in­jury struck.

“The tim­ing was ab­so­lutely gut­ting,” he ad­mits. “I’d just got into the team, played quite a few games on the bounce. I was scor­ing a few. And the team was top of the league at that point. To sud­denly be wiped out at that time was dev­as­tat­ing.

“It’s one of the worst in­juries you can get, and it’s hard to be­lieve you can be out for so long from do­ing some­thing so to­tally in­nocu­ous.

“In my case, it wasn’t a chal­lenge or a block – it was just a slightly awk­ward land­ing. I couldn’t be­lieve it but you just have to ac­cept it and move on.

“All the re­hab is tough, but the first time you step back on a pitch is an amaz­ing feel­ing. When you re­alise how eas­ily it can be taken away, you re­ally do ap­pre­ci­ate just be­ing able to kick a ball.”

And while the in­jury was rel­a­tively quick to heal, Miller says com­ing back re­quired strength not just in his knee mus­cles but also in the re­cesses of his brain.

“All through the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion when you’re get­ting into run­ning, then into ball work and fi­nally into game work, there are psy­cho­log­i­cal bar­ri­ers.

“You have re­serve games first, but you’re still very wary.And still to this day, there are cer­tain ac­tions where some­thing in the back of your mind is nig­gling away.

“But the more you play, the more con­fi­dence you have in the knee. Once you over­come that and things start com­ing nat­u­rally again, you stop think­ing. Af­ter the first few weeks play­ing, you’re usu­ally OK, but it means I’ve been not at my best for a year re­ally.”

In­jured un­der Danny Wil­son, Miller didn’t even play for David Weir be­fore the Scot was sacked with United rooted to the foot of League One.

And de­spite a tem­po­rary im­prove­ment un­der new gaffer Nigel Clough, the Blades went into yes­ter­day’s home game with Shrews­bury just one place bet­ter off. So how come their Cup form – As­ton Villa have also been slain – isn’t car­ry­ing into the league? “That’s the frus­trat­ing thing for all of us,” says Miller. “If you ask any­one, I’m sure they’ll all say they’d rather have had 12 points than four wins in the FA Cup.

“In the Cup we’ve been tremen­dous de­fen­sively and great at keep­ing our shape. What we have to do is take that res­o­lute­ness into league games.

“It’s nice to have a cup run, but there’s not much point if you aren’t back­ing it up in the league. That has to be the fo­cus now.” Un­til Not­ting­ham For­est pitch up at Bra­mall Lane in round five, of course. Surely the Cham­pi­onship side rep­re­sent a de­cent shot at a first quar­ter-fi­nal in 10 years?

“We’ve been up against the Premier League in each of the last two games and come out on top so it wouldn’t have mat­tered who we played,” says Miller.

“We’d have gone into the game think­ing: ‘We’ve got a chance’. We know we’ve got the tal­ent to beat them, and to stay up. It’s down to us to prove it.”

Stephen Warnock cel­e­brates his win­ner in Leeds’ 2-1 vic­tory at Yeovil – Page 12

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

BLADE STUN­NER: Sh­effield United’s Shaun Miller, left, cel­e­brates af­ter the 120th minute goal that knocked Ful­ham out of the FA Cup

BLADES BOSSES: From left, Danny Wil­son, David Weir and Nigel Clough

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