|Thomas Miller by Alex Service |
A flying winger, Thomas Miller will always be associated with another Cumbrian player called George Scott, who was the Cumberland county full-back. Let Premier, the famous rugby league correspondent of the St.Helens Newspaper [5th December 1924], give some of the details: “Two seasons ago, Scott and Miller, playing together for Aspatria Hornets, were spotted by Warrington as likely lads to make good in senior company. Scott was signed on and for a trial. Scott came off in brilliant fashion, delighting the Warrington people with his exhibitions for a very brief period; then he startled Warrington and the Rugby League generally by returning suddenly to Cumberland. Miller went back to Cumberland also. Warrington had only an ordinary form of agreement with Scott and when he went they could not prevent him playing football in Cumberland again, as it was classed junior football. Consequently the money they had spent on Scott was practically lost.”
“Scott was selected to play for Cumberland county in both their games this season, the second match taking place at Warrington a few weeks ago. There Scott undoubtedly revealed himself as a player of great courage and undoubted ability. His showing impressed everybody, but as most clubs feared to take him off the Warrington register lest they should leave them in the same boat as he left Warrington, they declined to pay the £150 Warrington were asking for him. St. Helens executive decided to investigate the matter notwithstanding what had happened and after getting in touch with Scott, they decided on Wednesday night to sign him on and to pay Warrington £150 for his services. Miller, who had come along with Scott, is the Maryport captain and left wing threequarter. The Committee asked for his terms and Miller asked for £300. Apparently this player must have been hearing stories of the anxiety of the St. Helens Committee in years gone by to throw money away in lavish fashion without first ascertaining that these captures could play or would play.”
“Though Miller is probably a good player, (he has a good record as a try scorer) he found that the Saints officials had no intention whatsoever of handing their money over to an unknown player without something to stand on; the Committee refused point blank to discuss cash down terms at all, to the surprise of both Miller and Scott. Miller was willing to play a trial for his £300 but the Committee declined to agree to anything so simple. Their offer was a good one and was as follows: that Miller should sign a provisional form, take his place immediately in the First Team, prove himself to be a first class wing threequarter who would be able to keep his place in the team and then he would be paid £100 at the end of the present season, with another £50 down the season following. Miller agreed and it is unfortunate from the Saints point of view that he has not stopped here to fill the terms of his trial agreement, as he seems to be a well-built speedy and intelligent player, with quite a decent record.”
“Both players then told me their careers. They had played Association Football with Aspatria Athletic and afterwards went to play rugby with Aspatria Hornets. They played as a wing pair, Scott centre, Miller on the wing. In one season they scored 200 points between them and Scott went to Warrington. Miller went there also and played an unsuccessful trial in which he said he never got the ball to do anything. Miller went to Maryport and became captain. He said he had scored in every game this season so far as he could remember and had scored one goal and three tries in one match.”
And it came to pass that Thomas Miller did make his debut for the Saints, in the 5-5 draw at City Road against St. Helens Recreation. “with regard to Miller’s actual play,” wrote Premier, “he shaped in very promising fashion. He will face forwards without flinching has a fair turn of speed, will tackle anything and seems to have what one may call football sense in many directions.” Thomas played four matches for the club and never crossed the whitewash, his last game being against Oldham at the Watersheddings, when the Saints were well and truly hammered 32-5. Yet Thomas had apparently played well, one of the better displays from a visiting player in fact. It is presumed that he just went back to Cumberland and was later struck off the register at the end of May 1925. As for his former centre partner Scott, there was a disagreement between the Saints and Warrington with regard to his transfer, but to cut a long story short, the case was referred to the Rugby League Council, who decided that he was on the Saints’ register. After all that, Scott returned to Cumberland and was transferred to Batley without playing a game for St. Helens.
Although we can only quote from sources such as the St.Helens Newspaper, it does highlight the difficulties and rank bad luck the Saints Committee had in signing players at this time. They had to go further afield, as most of the top young players had been snapped up just after the First World War by neighbours St. Helens Recreation.