Ten years is a long time in football. In the past decade, Rangers played in a major European final before the club ended up in a financial mess. A dominant Celtic side is currently on course to win the league title for the seventh consecutive season and even went an entire domestic campaign unbeaten. St. Johnstone has had three different managers – Derek McInnes, Steve Lomas and now Tommy Wright – and the club has achieved promotion and won the Scottish Cup in that time too.
One thing that has been constant over the past decade though, is Chris Millar’s presence at McDiarmid Park. The midfielder joined the club back in 2008 and in his first season played 34 out of 36 matches during the First Division title-winning campaign.
It’s now his testimonial year and with over 300 in all competitions plus two trophies to his name it’s fair to say that the 34-year-old has more than earned the right to be honoured for his contribution to Saints.
Back when the former Celtic and Greenock Morton man joined the club, he never envisaged what would lie ahead of him in the decade that followed.
“Football is so unpredictable,” he told me, “there’s no way that I could have foreseen being here for so long. It’s the nature of the game and things can change so quickly.
“One minute you could be first choice; in the starting eleven every week and then a new manager could come in who doesn’t rate you. Then you’re down the pecking order and out of the door. When I first signed, I’d be lying if I said I’d still be here ten years later – if I’d thought that I would’ve moved closer to Perth for a start!
“It’s been a great honour for me to have been here for so long though and it’s been an incredible ten years. To be getting a testimonial is a wonderful feeling and something I’m really proud and excited about. Hopefully there might still be one or two more years here for me though because I absolutely love playing for this club.” Hopefully there might still be one or two more years here for me because I absolutely love playing for this club.
There were some questions as to whether Chris would still be at the club for this campaign, after it was announced at the beginning of the season that he was free to look for a new club. The veteran midfielder was determined to stay put and fight his way back into contention, something that he has managed to do successfully.
“It’s been a funny season! Obviously I was told I could leave the club which is never something you want to hear as player. It was never a case of being forced out of the door though – the gaffer was open and honest, and he just told me that he didn’t envisage me playing as much and that if I wanted to be a regular at this point in my career I could look elsewhere.
“It came as a bit of a surprise I’m not going to lie because I featured in the European games in the summer but that’s football. You can take these things two ways; you can take the hump and sulk, becoming a negative influence on the squad, or you can get your head down and work hard. I chose the latter and I’m really happy that I’ve managed to get back into the first-team.
“I never doubted myself and I always felt I had the ability to force myself back into the reckoning. I want to be here at St. Johnstone – playing and contributing to the squad – and I still feel I’ve got plenty to offer the team. I’m feeling as sharp as ever and just want to keep on performing whenever I get the chance to pull on the jersey.”
It was Derek McInnes who signed Chris on a free transfer from Greenock Morton back in 2008, and the club has arguably enjoyed its most successful period ever during the time he’s been at McDiarmid Park. He followed up winning the First Division title in his first season with the Scottish Cup win in 2014, and has played for the club in Turkey, Switzerland, Slovakia and Lithuania during Europa League campaigns.
The Saints number seven beamed as he looked back on his career with the club to date and what he has managed to achieve since his arrival in Perth.
“It’s been an incredible time for me and we’ve had some great successes throughout the years too. I’ve realised and fulfilled childhood ambitions here at St. Johnstone which is something I could only have dreamt of when I first signed.
“When I first joined the club, I came because I wanted to get back to the top of Scottish football having been released by Celtic. It probably took me longer than I’d expected but I learned my trade at Morton and came up through the lower leagues. I’ve realised and fulfilled childhood ambitions here at St. Johnstone which is something I could only have dreamt of when I first signed.
“At the time, I felt it was a strong team that had a great chance of going up. And we did! It was a great first season to win the First Division title and it added to the Second and Third Division titles I’d previously won with Morton.
“You can’t forget the Scottish Cup either – to win a national cup competition is every kid's dream when they’re playing in the park with their pals. You’ve got to be realistic in Scotland and think that apart from Celtic and Rangers, there’s not really much chance of any other club winning the title. So the Scottish Cup is the next best thing and to have won that here really means a lot to me.”
Chris has certainly made a case to be considered as a club legend for his years of service to Saints, and he was quick to pay tribute to the Perth fans who have been there to support him and the club home and away, domestically and abroad.
“The fans are absolutely brilliant,” he said, “their support has been incredible and I feel like I’ve got a great relationship with them. I’d like to thank them all for their continued support it really is appreciated.
“I think they see that with me, they’ll never get anything less than 100%. I give it my all for the club whenever I step out onto that pitch and I never shy away from hard work. I’ve got a lot of time for all of the fans and I think they’ve got time for me and they’ve got behind me from day one. Hopefully we can give the supporters more to cheer about before the end of this season.”
After an uncertain start to the campaign, Chris is now back in amongst the first-team squad and despite the midfielder being in the final few months of his contract, he isn’t looking too far ahead with regards to his own future and is instead focused on the job at hand.
“There are lots of big games coming up over the next few weeks that will go a long way to determining where we finish this season, and the players are ready for the battle.
“With regards to my future, I’ve always said I love playing here and it would be great to stay for another couple of years. That’s not in my immediate thoughts though and I’m sure I’ll have those discussions with the manager at a later date.
“When you get to my age you can’t really look any further than season to season. I’m feeling great though and I genuinely believe I’m in the best condition that I’ve been in for years. My hunger and desire is still there, I just love playing football and I want to do it for this club for as long as possible. I feel I’ve still got a lot to offer here.
“It’s obviously a special year for me with regards to it being my testimonial year and I’m looking forward to everything that lies ahead. Hopefully we can sign off the season with some good performances for the fans and make it another successful season for the club.”
More information on Chris Millar’s Testimonial Year will be released in the coming weeks so keep your eyes peeled to Small City for more information on the events planned for the year.
The pictures for this article were taken by Graeme Hart of Perthshire Picture Agency. You can view more of his work on his website.
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