LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 27: Kenny Miller of Scotland runs with the ball during the International friendly match between Brazil and Scotland at Emirates Stadium on March 27, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
I understand the mixed feelings shown by supporters and pundits alike regarding the Kenny Miller signing today.
When I first read the rumours of his likely transfer, I thought, "Awesome! A big name signing, and someone I've heard of!" This was a great relief, as slagging through grainy YouTube videos of guys playing on cow pastures in Africa, and trying to decipher Belgium 2nd division statistical records wasn't exactly my idea of a fun week night.
Then the shock set in. "Wait a tick. Another striker? What happened to the creative midfielder we wanted? Defensive coverage?"
Then painful over-analysis of the development of Scotland's national team and implications that Martin Rennie is creating his own little Scottish football Illuminati began overtaking social media and I had to walk away from my computer.
I've now had a few hours since the signing became official, and I've read every tidbit I can about the man, and it seems I've come to a more level headed conclusion:
Kenny Miller is a good player.
Not exactly splitting the atom over here, I know. But I think some people are missing this very important point.
Kenny Miller is not Robbie Keane or Thierry Henry. He is not likely to dominate anyone in the MLS whenever he rolls out of bed and feels like it. He's played well at some clubs who are better than the Whitecaps, and has had a rough 2011 campaign on a club which from some accounts had problems creating any chances. Still, Kenny Miller was a first eleven player in a league still widely considered better than the MLS, and is the first choice striker for his national team who is certainly better than ours.
Kenny Miller is also not Sebastien Le Toux or even Camilo. Miller has the pedigree to show he can produce goals at a very high level. He also comes with a reputation as being an extremely hard worker with plenty of pace. Le Toux was becoming known around the Vancouver soccer community as the man with stone feet, and Camilo is still a tricky, quick, but not very strong striker who has had one hell of a year and done not much else his entire career.
Kenny Miller is a good player, with the ability to score goals, and a desire to play here.
But there are certainly some questions. Primarily, his age, his Designated Player contract status, and his position.
All three are valid concerns. 32 is no spring chicken, especially for a player who relies on his pace. The Whitecaps are all full on DP contracts, and some wish for a bigger splash with your salary cap free contracts. Not to mention the fact that we have plenty of talented finishers yet haven't found anyone to supply them with chances.
However I think some among the Whitecaps fan base may be too big for their own britches.
The Whitecaps are still a second year MLS squad to most of the world. We play on a plastic pitch, and you don't even live in the pop culture mecca of Los Angeles or the international icon of New York. And while our ownership group has plenty of disposable income, they aren't going to piss away the apparent $300,000 a week that the likes of Drogba are getting to go on an extended vacation prior to their retirement.
Miller is still an aging striker. And that means he's a gamble. And he's a gamble in a position we already had depth.
To me, this is Martin Rennie pushing all his chips on the table.
Two weeks ago, we had a good team. We could run with the big boys, but weren't good enough to beat them regularly. We would have the occasional hiccup against poorer squads, but seemed to solidly in a playoff position and it didn't look like we'd slip far enough to lose out. That being said, we weren't a great team. We weren't going to beat Los Angeles, San Jose, and then Sporting KC to win the MLS Cup.
Rennie is now risking the chemistry built over the first half of the season, to pass the torch to two Scotsmen fresh to the league and hopes they can quickly acclimatize and build that chemistry around them, as it doesn't appear there will be any creative midfielders to replace Davide Chiumiento. Rennie is hoping with Kenny Miller and Barry Robson, he now has the extra couple ounces of quality on top of a game built on determination and effort to put them over the top and challenge for a shot at the MLS Cup.
Let's hope it's a risk that pays off, as many fans who just went through last season would have been quite content with a 4th place finish in the west and getting a chance to see a home playoff game.
But please, let's not get ahead of ourselves and expect to sign world beaters on also-ran salaries, or scoff at the achievements of a player with far more pedigree than half of the leagues top scorers.
Kenny Miller is a good footballer. Give him a chance to prove it.