Alex Miller proud to be first Briton to manage in Russian football

Rafael Benitez and Alex Miller
Rafa Benitez made Miller (right) an assistant coach while he was at Anfield

Alex Miller has expressed his pride at being the first British head coach in Russian football.

The 62-year-old Scot this week took charge at First Division club Sibir Novosibirsk.

"I am the first British person to manage in Russia, so I am proud," the former Liverpool first-team coach told BBC Scotland.

"But the only thing is you have to do well and show that British people can coach anywhere."

Miller, who has managed South China, Morton, St Mirren, Hibernian, Aberdeen, Japanese outfit JEF United and AIK in Sweden, is not about to flood the team with British imports.

"I think it is very important you keep a home identity, especially with a club that is not a Zenit St Petersburg or Spartak Moscow," he said. "It is a smaller club.

"There are two Croatians and mainly Russians.

"This is my second day and I haven't seen them play, but I have some videos.

"They look half-decent, not Premiership standard in England but finished fifth in the First Division last year."

Miller stressed that, despite that, the ambition is there to take the Siberian outfit back to the Russian top-flight, from which the side based in the country's third-largest city were relegated in 2010.

"The thing that excited me about the challenge was their fantastic training facilities," he said from Sibir's pre-season training camp in Turkey.

"They have the facility of an indoor pitch with seating for 3,500 spectators.

"It is brand new, like a big exhibition hall with a high roof, it is fantastic.

"They have that and six field pitches, they have swimming pools, they have everything that you need."

Russian football has benefited from a surge in investment from the country's new rich, but Miller does not expect Sibir to take that route to glory.

"They will work to a budget and want to go to the Premier League, but they are good businessmen, so they are not silly," he said.

Miller spent nine years at Anfield, first as chief scout under Gerard Houllier and then as an assistant coach to Rafael Benitez.

He subsequently had short spells helping JEF and AIK avoid relegation in their respective leagues and hopes that the experience he has gathered will help him adapt to life in Siberia.

"When you work abroad, the challenge is that you have to adapt," he explained. "You personally have to adapt as the coach. You can't ask 25 players to adapt.

"The coach has to understand the psychology of the person, whether they be Japanese or Russian.

"The good thing is, which was very important, two of the coaches who are on the main staff can speak English fluently.

"I will try to learn some Russian to be polite, but they can speak English fluently, so it is very easy on the training field."

Miller's task begins in earnest in March, when a truncated three-month season kicks off as Russia prepares to move from summer football to a more traditional European model of starting in August and ending in May with a winter break.

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