On the final day of the 2006 summer transfer window, Roy Keane reached out to another one of his former Manchester United and Republic of Ireland colleagues to join the rollercoaster ride that was just about to begin on Wearside.
Liam Miller - a fellow Corkman - came to Sunderland at one of the most exciting times in their recent history. The club's promotion back to the Premier League and their solidification in the top tier of English football was a dramatic time – and one that the late Sunderland midfielder played his part in.
Liam Miller sadly passed away on the 9 February 2018 after a harrowing battle with pancreatic cancer. He is survived by his three children and his wife, Clare.
He has been described as being a doting father, a “besotted” husband and a thorough gentleman. Miller fought his illness with “ferocity” and was doing everything he could to survive for his family.
On a day to remember him fondly, it seems fitting to remember some of the big moments Miller enjoyed during his time at Sunderland.
At a time when late Sunderland goals were as common as Tony Mowbray chewing something sweet in a press conference, Miller was at the forefront of some particularly dramatic moments.
Sunderland 2-1 Derby County - 24th February 2007
After a steady but unspectacular lead-up to Christmas, things began to take off early in the New Year of 2007. Roy Keane had brought in new players such as Jonny Evans, Carlos Edwards and Stern John, who all made a big impact when joining the club. This recruitment and an upturn in form meant Sunderland were to make a real go of getting promoted.
Roy Keane’s men went into this game on the back of eight games unbeaten, including six wins. They were up against a strong Derby County side who were occupying a playoff place.
The game was a tense affair, with both teams afraid of losing. Sunderland had taken the lead when David Connolly scored from the spot after a foul on him by Marc Edworthy. Early in the second half, Giles Barnes scored a stunning solo goal to level, beating two men and firing home - and it appeared that the game was going to finish level until Miller nodded home a sensational late winner.
A young Grant Leadbitter found himself out on the wing and put in a hopeful cross into the box, which found the head of Liam Miller, who was sandwiched between two Derby defenders.
The ball hits the net. The Stadium of Light erupts into joy, with a noise not heard in years.
Now, it really felt like a promotion push was happening!
Middlesborough 2-2 Sunderland - 22nd September 2007
Sunderland made a stuttering start on their return to the Premier League, and their performance levels in this game were not much better. Although Grant Leadbitter gave Sunderland an early lead, the away side seemed to struggle.
Two former Sunderland players - Julio Arca and Stewart Downing - came back to haunt their old club with their goals putting ‘Boro ahead in the Tees-Wear derby. Roy Keane said his team ‘lacked Premier League quality’ in this game and it appeared that they were going home with zero points until Miller once again came up with the goods late on.
Miller’s 89th-minute goal snatched a point for Sunderland. With the ball breaking just outside the Middlesbrough box, the Irishman controlled the ball on his chest and, without a second thought, struck such a sweet volley that it gave Mark Schwarzer no chance.
With the Sunderland fans right behind the goal, it was a sweet moment for Miller -celebrating passionately with his team’s fans. A classy goal from a classy player.
Rest in peace, Liam Miller.