|Venue: Falkirk Stadium Date: Sunday, 29 November Kick-off: 17:00 GMT|
|Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Scotland and live text coverage on BBC Sport website & app|
“Coaching courses don’t prepare you for what’s happened to us this past year…”
In a turbulent first 12 months, Falkirk co-manager Lee Miller has seen the coronavirus pandemic not only impact last season’s promotion push, but also the way in which he has managed his side this term during a “surreal” self-isolation period.
The third-tier club host Rangers on Sunday in the last 16 of the Scottish League Cup, as Miller and co-manager David McCracken bid to become the first management team to inflict defeat on Steven Gerrard’s side this season.
Here, Miller tells BBC Scotland how he aims to do it and reflects on his matchday experience of coaching from the couch.
‘There is no pressure on us’
Despite there being two divisions and 22 league placings between the sides, similarities can be drawn in the way both clubs have started their respective campaigns.
Falkirk are two points clear at the top of Scotland’s third tier, and are yet to taste defeat after four wins and two draws from six games. Rampant Rangers currently sit 11 points clear in the Premiership, having won 13 and drawn two of their 15 games.
“Gerrard has a cracking side there,” says Miller. “He will probably make changes, but it will be one world-class international player for another.
“But do you know what? There’s no pressure on us. We’re on a good high and it’s at our patch. I don’t think they’ll be too keen on the astro, so we just need to take the game to them.
“It’s just gutting we can’t get fans in for it. Our fans would have that place packed out.”
‘Anything is possible’
One game that had the Falkirk Stadium rocking was the last contest between the sides in March 2016, when they were promotion rivals in the Championship.
Miller started as goals from Kenny Miller and Barrie McKay had Rangers 2-0 up inside 10 minutes. But three goals in the final quarter of the game secured a sensational comeback for Peter Houston’s side.
Miller believes his players share the same mentality as the squad that enjoyed success throughout Houston’s tenure between 2014 and 2017.
“That night shows anything is possible,” says Miller. “It was incredible. Everybody thought we were down and out, but we had a mentality in that side and I think we have that in our side now.
“It’s a totally different team but the spirit and atmosphere about the place just now is really encouraging.”
Technical area in the living room
Covid-19 impacted on Falkirk’s promotion hopes last season, as the campaign was curtailed with Miller and McCracken’s side a point behind Raith Rovers with eight games to play.
But it also affected how Miller has had to coach his players during a period of self-isolation after a family member tested positive for the the virus.
Miller was housebound for 14 days, and had to watch three games from home. “It felt like I had been away for three months, never mind two weeks,” he says.
“It was such a difficult and strange experience. Not just the games but the day-to-day stuff. ‘Cracks’ would send me videos of the warm up just to make me feel a part of it.”
And while juggling coaching along with a university course in applied management, and being a father of four, Miller doesn’t know where he would be without his “really, really supportive” wife.
She was on hand to lighten the mood before Falkirk’s league clash with East Fife at the end of last month.
“She knew I was a bit stressed so she marked the technical area out as wee joke,” says Miller. “But I’ll tell you something, it was the only time I’ve sat down watching us play. I’m always jumping about.
“It was stressful though. I was watching the game with a 20-second delay, so there was a couple of times I was on the phone to David and things were happening that I hadn’t seen yet.
“It was surreal. I hope it never happens again but it’s an experience I can say I’ve had.”
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