It would be fair to say that in the first 70 years of the Club's history Aberdeen contributed a fair supply of talent to Scotland's International scene. Joe Harper was the 25th Don to receive full international honours, but neither he nor his 24 predecessors was accepted as an out-and-out legend in Scottish football terms. True, players like Alex Jackson, Jock Hutton, Graham Leggat and others are mentioned with reverence, but their finest hours often came after their departure from Pittodrie. Bobby Clark won 16 caps between 1967 and 1973, but his tenure between the sticks for Scotland was not enough to classify him as a Scotland great.
Willie Miller, the 26th Don to be capped, was to change all that as he wrote his name in giant letters all over the history of the Scottish game at both club and international level from 1976 onwards. Miller, then a young up-and-coming striker playing with Eastercraigs, was signed by the Dons in June 1969 on an "S" form. At 16 Willie was called up by the club and was immediately farmed out to Highland League side Peterhead. Young Miller made an instant impact at Recreation Park. His 23 goals made him the club's top scorer, and he tasted his first success in the shape of an Aberdeenshire Cup winner's medal.
At the outset of the 1972-73 season he was promoted to the Dons reserve side, but his scoring knack seemed to desert him, and he struggled a little. One week before Christmas 1972, a rash of injuries in the reserves opened the door for the youngster to become a stand-in central defender, and from that moment on he never looked back. The young Dons almost swept the board on the honours front, winning the League and League Cup. Willie then celebrated a remarkable turn round in fortune by winning a first team call-up for the final game of the season against Morton at Cappielow on 28 April 1973. Miller was substitute on the day, but not long after halftime he took the field in place of Arthur Graham.
One game into the 1973-74 season first team regular Henning Boel suffered a recurrence of a knee problem, and Willie Miller stepped in to replace the big Dane. So began a virtually unbroken run that saw Willie in possession of the Aberdeen No.6 shirt for a remarkable 16 years.
In his early years Miller displayed all the talents that were to take him to the top, albeit in a raw form. In March 1974 he was called up for his first under 23 honour against England at St. James's Park, and despite playing out of position at right back he gave a good account of himself. At Club level Willie's development continued apace as he formed a solid partnership with Willie Young at the heart of the Dons defence.
At the end of the 1974-75 season Scotland team boss Willie Ormond called Willie into his squad for Scotland's European Championship group opener against Rumania in Bucharest on 1st June. The game came only a week after Scotland's crushing 5-1 Wembley reverse against England in the annual fixture with the Auld Enemy, but rather than call on Willie for his defensive talents it was to add bite to midfield that Ormond included Miller for his first full cap.
The man himself would have played in goal to represent his country, and as you would expect gave his all in a creditable 1-1 draw. Having done his bit as a team player, it seemed Willie would have been rewarded quickly with another cap or two, but he had to be content with several additions to his under-23 cap collection as the likes of Colin Jackson, John Blackley and Tom Forsyth were preferred in the heart of Scotland's defence.
Back at Pittodrie, changes had taken place that would ultimately see Willie Miller fulfil his true potential. Willie Young had gone and Miller was to form a new partnership with young centre half Willie Garner. In December 1975 new club manager Ally McLeod handed Miller the club captaincy at the tender age of 20, and you could almost see the young skipper grow with the responsibility. He led by example as the Dons had to dig deep and claw their way out of relegation trouble at the end of the 1975-76 season.
A little over six months after the trauma of near-relegation, Willie was climbing the steps at Hampden to lift the League Cup after the Dons memorable 2-1 final triumph over Celtic. While things were looking up for Miller on the club front, his new maturity apparently made no impression on Scotland team boss Willie Ormond, and a second full cap seemed a distant dream.
The appointment of Ally McLeod to the Scotland hot seat in 1977 looked good for Willie's international prospects, and soon enough McLeod rewarded his former skipper with a cap against Bulgaria in February 1978 in what was Scotland's only tussle with continental opposition in their build up to the 1978 World Cup finals. But there was no place for Miller on the flight to Argentina, and ultimately Willie had to lead the Dons to the 1980 Scottish League flag before the Scottish management would recognise his international pedigree.
A third cap came against Belgium during the 1979-80 season, but it was only during May and June 1980, in the wake of the Don's League success, that Willie established himself firmly as a first choice Scotland defender. He set the ball rolling with a thundering drive in a 1-0 win over Wales in the British Championship, and kept his place for the game against England at Hampden.
Willie proved his ability in two subsequent June internationals in Eastern Europe against Poland and Hungary, and suddenly at 25 he had made his breakthrough at international level. A superb performance alongside club mate Alex McLeish at the heart of the Scots defence in hard fought 1-0 win over England at Wembley in 1991 secured universal recognition for Miller.
Over the following two seasons, one of which was a testimonial year at Pittodrie, Willie played his part in Scotland's qualification for the 1982 World Cup Finals as well as a huge part in the Dons' growing success story. In the days prior to flying out to Spain for the World Cup finals he lifted the Scottish Cup for the first time after the Dons 4-1 win over Rangers at Hampden, and a great season for the Dons sweeper was rounded off when he played against Brazil in Seville. The game marked Willie's 18th Scotland appearances, and saw him beat Bobby Clark's 17-cap club record. The 1982-83 season brought Willie's finest hour as club skipper, as he led the Dons to their unprecedented European Cup Winners Cup triumph.
Less than a month after climbing the Hampden steps once again to collect the Scottish Cup, Willie was given the honour of leading Scotland in an international fixture in Canada. He went on to captain his country on several occasions. In season 1983-84 Willie was named Scottish Player of the Year as the Dons' domestic domination took hold. Throughout the mid-1980s Miller played his heart out, whether for club or country in the centre of defence.
His superb timing, great positional sense, bone jarring tackling, inspiring leadership, and above all his outstanding consistency became expected, if not quite taken for granted. The 1986 World Cup Finals brought another international landmark for Willie as he reached the 50 cap mark against West Germany, and by November 1989 had stretched to 65 caps. Sadly, Willie's 65th cap against Norway in November 1989, proved his undoing at international level.
Over a playing career spanning almost 20 years Willie was rarely injured, or at least seldom allowed an injury to keep him on the sidelines. A knee injury during the 1988-89 season saw him out of the game for several weeks, but that was his first ever prolonged absence. After accepting the inevitable during the 1990-91 season and being feted with another testimonial, Willie called it a day.
He moved into management with responsibility for the reserve side in 1992, and took over as manager in his own right in early 1992, remaining in that post until his departure in 1995. Willie remained on the football scene in the media before returning to Pittodrie in 2004 as Executive Football Consultant, concentrating mainly onYouth Development. Miller again departed Pittodrie in June 2012, going back to working in the media with BBC Radio Scotland.