After being released as a youngster by Ipswich Town, Tommy signed a professional contract with Hartlepool United, his local club and a club that he already had family links with via his father. Even as a young player, his ability and aggressive style of player helped him to establish a place in the heart of a fast developing team. It was only a matter of time before a bigger club came knocking and after 34 goals in 136 league games, Ipswich returned to rectify their earlier mistake. The deal, worth a reported £750,000, was a huge amount at the time and was the highest we had ever received for a player. Tommy went on to have a successful career beyond Pools and Ipswich, playing for Sunderland, Huddersfield Town and Sheffield Wednesday amongst other clubs. He even received a call up to the Scotland squad, but could not take this further due to an injury.
On returning to Pools at the end of career, he struggled with injury. Despite this he played in the famous win against Exeter City that secured the following seasons Football League place. This game is unlikely to be forgotten and neither is a player who made over 600 appearances throughout his career, scoring in excess of 100 goals from midfield and on some of the highest platforms.
Here is what he had to say...
What memories do you have of your first Pools match?
First pools match I came on as a sub v Chester away-think we were getting beat 2-0 and I came on for the last 20 minutes, but I couldn’t tell you who for! We ended up getting beat 3-1.
And your last match?
The last match was the last home game of the season against Exeter (April 2014) and we needed to win to stay in the league! I got a calf injury in September of that season and struggled to return continuing to break down. I was also stuck on 599 career games, so I was desperate to get to 600!
I got on for the last 15 mins and we managed to see the game out and get the 3 points to keep us in the league.
I owe Hartlepool a lot for helping me in my career, they gave me a chance in football which I am so grateful for. Having come through the youth ranks, getting into the first team and then being sold to Ipswich for a club record fee. The disappointment of 2 successive semi-final play-off defeats against Darlington and Blackpool were hard to take.
My second spell at the club did not go to plan-a calf injury in September was a blow and I never fully recovered from then on which was maybe a sign that my playing career was coming to an end.
Do you still have any of your Pools shirts?
I am fortunate that my Dad has kept all my shirts from every season at every club, so they are something to look back at in years to come.
What can you tell us of the dressing room characters and banter?
When I was first turned pro there were some great characters and the dressing room was very good.
You had to be mentally tough to survive and there was certain stuff which you could never get away with these days! Gucky and Denny Ingram were top lads and Brian Honour was so funny and still is! But Gucky and Denny were always in the thick of things that was going on!
Best player at Pools during your time?
I was fortunate to play with some very good players and when Peter Beardsley came to the club it was a dream come true as he was my hero growing up even though I ended up doing all his running for him! but what a class act on the ball he was and a great player to learn from.
Micky Barron deserves a mention as his reading of the game was brilliant and he was so calm on the ball but I can’t pick between Tinks and Stevo mainly because they did my defensive work! Jokes aside they were great players, Stevo’s ability on the ball and Tinks for his all-round game-top players so I would say them 2 from my time at Pools.
Toughest ever opponent?
For Hartlepool it was Gary Brabin (Blackpool/Hull City), not because of his ability on the ball but he was built like a brick shithouse and if he tackled you, you certainly knew about it! He was an ex nightclub doorman as well so that tells you everything!
In my career I have been lucky to play against some top midfielders of my era-Gerrard, Keane, Lampard and Scholes but the one that stands out for me is Viera who was an absolute powerhouse all arms and legs, box to box you could not get nowhere near him!
Favourite ground you've played at?
Again lucky enough to have played at some great grounds Wembley/Old Trafford/Highbury/Stamford Bridge but it has to be Anfield with its history and when you walk out and the fans are singing you’ll never walk alone the hairs on the back of your neck stand up-a special feeling and a wonderful atmosphere.
Are you still in touch with former player?
I speak to a few former players then and again mainly at football games.
What are your thoughts on the current game?
The current game seems to be getting quicker especially in the premier league. I know the introduction of VAR is not for everyone and it wasn’t for me at first but I think with the game being so high pressured with so much at stake the referees need help as they make mistakes just like all of us!
It is also refreshing to see some good young England youth coming through which all bodes well for the future.
You scored 35 goals for Pools. What was your favourite?
I scored 44 actually! I enjoyed my goals against Darlington for obvious reasons especially the one at Feethams and my hat-trick against Chester at home were all decent goals but my best was Blackpool away when I lobbed the goalkeeper from just over the half way line!
Who was the best player you played under?
Best manager at Hartlepool I played under was Chris Turner. The system we played suited me perfectly and he gave me a licence to get forward and get goals, so I owe him a lot. In my career Joe Royle, a great man manager and like Chris knew my strengths and gave me freedom to get forward and get goals.
One of the last memories I have of you at Pools is missing that pen against us when you played for Swindon. Did DiCanio give you any grief?
Di Canio was alright after the game to be fair, but I bet he wanted to kill me at the time when I missed!
We sang "One Tommy Miller" after that, did you hear us lol?
I didn’t really hear Poolies sing the song but someone has showed me something on you tube where a few fans are saying I’m a wanker running up to take the penalty! Harsh but funny.