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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 January 2006, 18:14 GMT
Crossing the divide
By Clive Lindsay

Kenny Miller celebrates a goal for Rangers
Kenny Miller is not a player who shirks a challenge, having been confident enough to battle for a place in a multi-million pound Rangers strikeforce at the tender age of 20.

But the pressures involved in that move from Hibernian will seem like a walk in the park compared to being only the third player to play for both sides of the Old Firm in the post-war era.

Miller will follow in the steps of Maurice Johnston and Alfie Conn when he completes his transfer to Celtic from Wolves in the summer.

Conn began his career at Ibrox, helping Rangers win the Scottish League Cup in 1971, the European Cup-Winners Cup the following year and the Scottish Cup.

Following a short spell with Tottenham Hotspur, his decision to join Jock Stein's Celtic was controversial but was a move that paid off when he won the League and Scottish Cup double in his first season.

Johnston, however, brought the great sectarian divide into world focus like never before when he joined Graeme Souness' Ibrox revolution in July 1989.

It was not just that the outspoken and fiery redhead ignited religious passions by becoming the first high-profile Catholic to play for the once-staunchly Protestant Rangers.

His sensational, eleventh-hour U-turn, after publicly saying he was looking forward to a second spell with Celtic at the end of two years with Nantes, was the touch-paper that so inflamed tempers on both sides.

While Conn still lives and works in Glasgow, Johnston, now head coach with the Metrostars in the melting pot that is New York, headed for the quieter life in the USA, where few knew, or perhaps could even comprehend, the source of his notoriety.

Yet, despite the vitriol thrown at him by such a vocal minority, Johnston was a resounding success as Souness laid the foundations of Rangers' decade-long domination of Scottish football.

Miller celebrates scoring against Italy
Miller's form for Scotland has been excellent

Miller, by contrast, made only 18 starts for Rangers in his 18 months under Dick Advocaat after his 2m transfer and his move to Wolves for 1m had already been put in place by the time his former Hibs manager, Alex McLeish, took over at Ibrox.

His signing of a pre-contract agreement in Parkhead coincided with Rangers striker Peter Lovenkrands' claims that he had been attacked twice by Celtic fans on nights out in his adopted city.

Celtic midfielder Neil Lennon has also found himself a target of the less tolerant.

But Miller will arrive at Celtic Park with no baggage of having antagonised his new club's support, either off or on the park.

Edinburgh-born, the 26-year-old was brought up somewhat divorced from Glasgow's infamous sectarian divide.

And he returns to Scotland in an era much-divorced from those experienced by Conn and Johnston.

Catholics in Rangers teams cause few eyebrows to be raised, Celtic have welcomed Protestants into theirs.

Even the troubles of Northern Ireland, which fuelled antagonism on the football battle fields of Glasgow, are on the way to being resolved.

Miller is unlikely to find a warm welcome from the Ibrox stands. But it will be only slightly more intense than had he moved from Manchester United to City, from AC Milan to Inter.

His acceptance in the east end of Glasgow will more likely rest on his playing abilities.

He has already performed in England's Premiership, albeit for a side destined for relegation, and has been a hit this season for Scotland and in the Championship.

But he will have to win over fans who do not yet regard him in the class of recently-departed striking heroes Chris Sutton and Henrik Larsson.


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