Ishmael Miller (West Ham – NFFC Programme Notes)

I think I’m justified in describing myself as a die-hard Forest fan. I’ve been a season ticket holder for years, I go to as many away games as I can, I know all the words to Mull of Kintyre and I boo aggressively every time I pass a flock of sheep. Cut me open and I bleed red blood.

However, there is a dark and disturbing secret that I’m almost too afraid to admit … I have married into another club. Although our children will be Forest fans, they won’t be pure-bloods … and the shame is almost unbearable.

But don’t panic … my wife isn’t a Derby fan … I don’t think any priest would permit such a union. My in-laws are, in fact, fanatical West Bromwich Albion supporters.

As a rite of passage/form of mild torture, I have been forced to go and watch the Baggies on several occasions over the past few years and, though it pains me to admit it, I’ve been impressed by their dynamic attacking football. One player who I particularly enjoyed watching was Ishmael Miller.

The 24 year old was on my wish list at the start of the season and I was thrilled that the ‘transfer acquisitions panel’ finally responded to my weekly telegrams and signed him up. Built like a boxer and fast as a puma, Miller is a player, whose mere presence can reduce competent centre halves to blubbering wrecks.

However, it’s a common misconception that he’s just a big target man for defenders to hoof long balls toward. He is a skilful striker, who prefers to receive the ball on the floor and relishes the opportunity to run at defenders. He always wants the ball, is comfortable in possession and has the pace and power to hurt teams. The acquisition of Ishmael Miller will give Forest a better platform from which to play good passing football

Although he is primarily a centre forward, he can also be employed in a wide role and is adept at cutting in from the right hand side and unleashing scorchers with his left foot. He’s very one-footed but this doesn’t seem to make it any easier for defenders to contend with his strength and speed.

One of the major positives is that Ishmael is still young and, under the guidance of Steve McClaren, can become an even better player, as the season progresses. At present, he is probably best described as a raw and exciting forward – passionate, selfish and hungry. If he gets a faint sniff of goal, even very persuasive wild horses won’t convince him to play a square ball … and I think Forest need a player with this mentality to lead the line.

One of the things that might concern Forest fans is his goal-scoring record. He scored 16 goals in 97 games before joining us (an average of about one goal every six games.) However, I’m confident that this ratio will improve, with a prolonged run in the first team (something he’s been deprived of over the last two seasons.)

But – and I know I risk being publicly flogged for making this outrageous claim – a striker can be an integral part of a team, even if he doesn’t score goals. I believe Ishmael Miller is going to be vital to the balance of our team and I think he’ll help us to win a lot of football matches.

He hasn’t scored a lot of Championship goals but he has played a major part in three successful promotion campaigns … this has to be more than a coincidence.

The last time I saw Ishmael play for West Brom, I had lost all feeling in my legs and arms on a bitterly cold January night back in 2010, as Forest beat Albion 3-1 at the Hawthorns. I secured bragging rights over the in-laws, as Forest completely out-footballed Albion for the entire game. However, the last fifteen minutes had me covering my eyes and reaching for somebody’s hand to squeeze, because Ishmael Miller (who had just recovered from injury) had been brought on as a substitute.

It was exactly the same last season, when we played QPR at Loftus Road. He is a frightening prospect and a man who can single-handedly change the complexion of a game. I’m just glad he’s on our side nowadays … not least because grabbing the hand of the bloke sitting next to you is frowned upon at football grounds.

Although I believe the introduction of Radi was the turning point against Leicester last week, Ishmael played an integral part in the comeback. His strength and composure meant that the ball was sticking in the final third, allowing the midfielders to get into more advanced positions and eventually leading to the two goals.

Ishmael Miller is a striker who has all the assets required to be a success in the Championship. Defenders may know what he is all about, but there’s very little they can do against such power, pace and ability. If he features in today’s game you’ll see the colour drain from the faces of the West Ham back four.

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