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Former Manchester United star Liam Miller backed to beat cancer by coach who calls him 'fittest player' he worked with

Mirror logo Mirror 14/11/2017 Gavin Berry

If anyone can beat cancer, it's former Manchester United and Republic of Ireland midfielder Liam Miller.

That's the view of one of the 36-year-old's old coaches, who says he was the 'fittest player' he worked with.

John Hughes, who coached Miller at Hibernian, said he was shocked to discover his former midfielder had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

As recently as last season Miller was winding up Hughes' Raith Rovers assistant Kevin McBride by sending photos of him on a beach in America while they were deep in a relegation battle.

Miller headed Stateside to play for semi-professional side Wilmington Hammerheads and his photos painted a blissful picture in contrast to the Championship drop fight in Fife.

Hughes, affectionately known as Yogi, admitted that summed up Miller’s sense of humour but at the age of just 36 he now faces a fight for life.

Liam Miller is the fittest player John Hughes has ever worked with.

Former Manchester United midfielder Liam Miller, 36, is offered support from football world after news he's battling cancer

Now he’s praying the Irishman can find the strength to win his biggest battle.

Yogi confessed he couldn’t believe his luck when he tempted the former Celtic and Manchester United man to Easter Road in 2009.

Capped 21 times by Republic of Ireland, he spent a couple of years in the capital and Hughes described him as the ultimate professional.

Emotional Hughes told the Daily Record: “It’s absolutely tragic news. I knew he had cancer and all my hope and prayers are with him.

“He’s a fighter. If anybody can come through he can, that’s for sure.

“We all love football but there are more important things and that’s life. I know he has a young family.

a group of football players on a field: Credits: Phil Cole/Getty © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Phil Cole/Getty

Phil Cole/Getty

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“Kevin McBride was keeping me updated because we knew for a while. They are really close. Liam would send McBride wee photos of himself on the beach, giving him stick and all that.

“Hopefully he can come through it. He was one of the best professionals I’ve ever worked with. He was unbelievable.

“He was always out on the training pitch with a ball 15 minutes before training started and took young guys with him. He’s the fittest professional I've ever worked with. We used to do the yo-yo test and he would run it off the clock. You could turn the lights off.

“He would still be going after the final bleep and everyone else was running down struggling for oxygen.

a group of young men playing a game of football: Credits: Matthew Peters © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Matthew Peters

Matthew Peters

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“That’s his dedication to be a professional footballer. You just said to the young boys, ‘Get yourself close to Miller’ because he was one of the best professionals – ripped and training like an absolute Trojan.

“When I signed him it was like winning the lottery because the window had closed.

“One of the players I worked with was Graham Barrett. I signed him from Arsenal for Falkirk and they were best of mates. Graham phoned me and said, ‘What about Liam?’ I said, ‘Get him up here’ and couldn’t believe my luck when he walked through the door.

“Hibs qualified for Europe that season and Liam got in the team of the year. He just wanted to play football, he made all his money with Celtic and Manchester United.

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“His wife loved Edinburgh and they had a house in Edinburgh. He was very quiet and kept himself to himself but he was always in the background cranking it up and letting other people fire the bullets.”

Hughes was speaking at Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale’s Saughton Enclosure where the Edinburgh side host St Mirren in Saturday’s Scottish Cup third-round tie.

And the 53-year-old urged the SFA to push the boat out to lure Michael O'Neill to Hampden after his Northern Ireland side agonisingly missed out on a World Cup finals place.

The former Brechin boss left Easter Road as a player in 1996 just as Hughes was arriving in Leith. Yogi said: “It would be a sensible decision if the SFA go and get Michael O’Neill. But he won’t be short of offers so it will all depend on the contract.

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“He’s under contract with Northern Ireland so I’m assuming they will have to pay some sort of compensation.

“Michael will have offers but if Scotland come calling it would be too good an offer to turn down. I did my coaching badges with Michael and I know him very well.

“We aren’t blessed with technical footballers. It will be the exact same scenario as with Northern Ireland where he would need to get the team to dig in, be resolute and good at set-pieces.”

● John Hughes was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup.

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