STEVE Clarke’s outburst about sectarianism may have shocked Scottish football, but it resonated with Willie Miller.

His old Scotland team mate might have spent his entire career playing for Aberdeen, a club untainted by the bile and bigotry that continues to contaminate both Celtic and Rangers, but he had certainly encountered it as a boy growing up.

Clarke, in an emotional address to the media after a Kilmarnock game against Rangers at Ibrox earlier this month in which he had been subjected to chants of “Fenian b******”, admitted he had been grateful to Chelsea for taking him away from the religious discrimination that was, and sadly remains, prevalent in pockets of his homeland.

Miller understood exactly what he meant. “Sectarianism was rife in the late 1960s and early 1970s where I was brought up in the East End of Glasgow,” he said. “I was delighted to make that move to Aberdeen.

“I didn’t make the move because of that, I made it because Aberdeen wanted me. I thought they would be a good club because they were successful in those days and had a good manager too. But it did give me the opportunity to get away from all that nonsense. I can fully understand where Steve’s coming from.

“When you’ve been away from it and then you come back and feel it’s still there, it must be a bit gut-wrenching. It is depressing to think we haven’t moved on in all these years. I think it has got better, but it’s still not good enough and I think Steve should be applauded for highlighting it and getting it out there.”

Clarke’s words have certainly brought the thorny issue of sectarianism in our national game, and specifically what can be done to eradicate it from our grounds, sharply back into focus.

Calls for the implementation of strict liability, which punishes clubs regardless of the measures they have put in place to prevent it beforehand as well as the actions they have taken after to punish those responsible, have increased since.

Miller is one of a growing number of concerned onlookers who are unhappy with the existing sanctions and believe it is worth trying. “Clubs need to take more responsibility,” he said. “Strict liability is something the clubs keep ducking. But they should address it and take that on board. They should be responsible for whatever fans come into the ground. That’s my feeling.

“There’s still work to do, but I think clubs have to take more responsibility. We don’t just need words, we need actions to sort it out.

“I think it has improved since I left Glasgow when I was 16, but in football it needs to improve even further. The people who run football, the authorities and club chairman in particular, need to take the responsibility on board.”

Miller, who was raised in the Bridgeton area of Glasgow in the shadow of Parkhead, acknowledges that sectarianism is a problem the whole of Scottish society, not just the SFA and SPFL, needs to tackle.

“It probably started at school, because we were segregated,” he said. “I am protestant, but I have got family who are catholic and friends who were catholic. I just couldn’t see the point in it (sectarianism) to be honest.

“Fortunately, it wasn’t something that was handed down by family to me. There was no bigotry, there was no sectarianism. Everybody was equal and I was thankful for that. That is what we need, more of that kind of attitude to hopefully wipe it out.”

Speaking at a Premier Sports event at Hampden earlier this week to promote the satellite broadcaster’s coverage of the William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final between Aberdeen and Rangers at Pittodrie this afternoon, Miller argued that Clarke has already produced positive results with his outspoken stance.

He praised Dave King, the Ibrox chairman and major shareholder, for coming out and publicly condemning the treatment the Rugby Park manager received in the cup replay the day after.

“It was probably going to take someone from outside to highlight it and that is what has happened,” he said. “A Scotsman who has been away for so many years has spoken out about it. I think it took a brave man to highlight it. He did and well done to him.

“I hope it makes club chairmen sit up. I think it was a very positive statement from the Rangers chairman and if everybody can have that attitude and put the words into action then we will be a better place for it.”

Miller, who had a spell in charge of Aberdeen after retiring, believes the abuse that Clarke suffered was due to the force he has turned Kilmarnock into and the success they have enjoyed in games against Celtic and Rangers since returning to this country last season. But he stressed the nature of it was completely unacceptable.

“As a manager you expect to take flak,” he said. “God, when I was manager I took an enormous amount of flak from the opposition supporters. It is the same being a player. If the opposition fans are giving you stick then you know that you are doing something right.

“It is a bit of compliment. Not the words, obviously. But fans having a going at Steve Clarke is basically telling him that the job he has done has been of the highest level.”

Miller had the opportunity to move to Rangers after he had won the Scottish title with Aberdeen for the first time in 1980. He chose not to and went on to captain the north-east club to victory over Real Madrid in the European Cup Winners’ Cup in Gothenburg a few years later. But his decision was made for purely football reasons.

“I did have the chance to go to Rangers when John Greig was the manager,” he said. “Sunderland as well. Financially, that would’ve been a big step for me. They offered much more than Aberdeen ever could.

“But I concluded there was much more chance of success at Aberdeen and thankfully I stayed. I still believe players play for medals. Finance is important but you still want to win things, surely.”

Premier Sports will screen live and exclusive coverage of Aberdeen v Rangers today in the William Hill Scottish Cup. Available on Sky, Virgin Media and via the Premier Player, new subscribers can get their first month free. Visit for details.