'Our tribute to Liam needed to be done'
Five players involved in the Liam Miller Tribute Match have shared memories of their former Manchester United team-mate, ahead of the emotional fixture in Cork on Tuesday afternoon.
Wes Brown, Quinton Fortune, Mikael Silvestre and Alan Smith were all in the same 2004/05 and 2005/06 United squads as Miller, who tragically lost his fight against cancer in February this year. He was 36.
Another former colleague who spoke to ManUtd.com was Michael Clegg, who left the Reds before Liam arrived but later worked with him as part of Roy Keane's staff at Sunderland.
Below, we present the five ex-players' personal recollections of the popular Irishman, as they prepare to play for Keane's United XI against a combined Ireland and Celtic XI at Pairc Ui Chaoimh in Cork.
The game, which will raise money to help Miller's wife and children as well as charities including Marymount Hospice, is a 45,000 sell-out and live coverage will be free to view from 14:30 BST on Facebook, YouTube and, only via Sky in the UK and Ireland, MUTV.
We'll never forget you, Liam.
“It brings home reality. I signed for Man United on the same day as Liam. He was such a lovely family guy, just unassuming but so talented in every aspect. It’s such a massive loss to everyone and obviously, we’d far rather not be staging the game at all – it’s so sad to even speak about it – but hopefully this match can be everything that everybody wants it to be. Liam’s death has touched the whole of football and now we have the opportunity to give as much adulation as we can to someone who we all lost much too soon.I’ve been trying to explain the situation to my own family and friends, and you just don’t know the emotions you’ll have on the day, because you never want or expect to be in a situation where you’re playing in a game like this. Hopefully after everybody’s emotions have settled down, Liam’s family can look back on the day with wonderful memories. We have to make sure the day lives long in the memory for everyone involved, just like Liam will.
“In his first managerial role at Sunderland, Roy Keane wanted to bring people who he trusted to the club, people who he could turn to in times of trouble, and Liam was one of those people. Liam was central to what Roy was trying to achieve. Liam especially brought a never-give-in attitude, but he was also a really fun lad as well. What he brought in terms of atmosphere and character was second to none. I was on the coaching staff and we wanted to build camaraderie in the dressing room - Liam brought that everywhere, whether it was in the gym, in the canteen, with the rest of the players and ultimately on the pitch. What he did on the pitch was of a very high level.Liam was a slim lad but very agile and mobile. He managed to get on the ball and do things that sometimes you couldn’t even believe could be done. He’d spread the ball wide, get from box to box and in that 2006/07 season, he definitely contributed a massive amount to getting us promoted. He scored a massive goal against Derby at a really important time in the season to keep our momentum going.
“The character of that team was superb. Roy was a big believer in team bonding; he loved the lads doing team activities together. We’d go to Kielder Forest and do activities: quad-biking, archery, clay pigeon shooting, go to Teesside for white water rafting, bike rides in the middle of the Yorkshire Dales, and Liam – even though he was relatively experienced – was such a youthful, bubbly presence among all that. They were very special times – probably the highlight of my time at the club in the last 12 years – and Liam was central to it all.”
“We are quite young, our generation of players, so it was a big shock when Liam left us. Liam was very likeable, he had no enemies. He got on well with everyone at United as soon as he came. It was a no-brainer to be involved in the game. If I’m not getting married the same day, I’m there. There are no excuses. It shows how respected and highly regarded Liam was. He was only at the club for two years, but he was one of us. One hundred per cent he was one of us. He shared the United values, gave his best, never gave up and that’s why he gained the respect of every single person who shared that dressing room with him. That’s testament to Liam’s personality and the kind of player he was.”
“Liam was a quiet, humble guy but his football did all the talking. We could all see he was a naturally gifted footballer. We all knew that Liam had loads of ability, but in every position there was so much competition for places and he was coming up against Scholesy and Keaney and that was always going to be difficult. At any other club he probably would have been playing all the time, but it was always going to be difficult for him at United.The game being held in his honour is an amazing gesture, but it’s the right gesture. It’s a sell-out and we’re grateful to everyone who’ll be attending the game. The most important thing is to celebrate Liam, remember him and hopefully we can make his family proud and put on a show for him. I hope he’s watching from above and laughing at the old legs trying to run around on the pitch! We want to make him and his family proud, not just for the day, but we want him to be remembered forever. It was a shock to all of us when we heard the news and hopefully we can all play some small part in helping his family. He must be forever remembered at Manchester United and every club he played for.
“Liam was a top man. When he first came to the club everyone could quickly see that he was a great lad, he got on with all the boys tremendously and when you look at the players playing in this game for him, it shows the respect he earned.
“It’s so sad, what’s happened, but the lads have all come together and we all want to pay a great tribute to him. It needed to be done – there was no other option. It’s one of the saddest things you can think about but we’ve all got together and everyone is going to see the level of respect is that is due to him.”