Liam Millar grateful for Preston North End move as Canada challenge outlined by ex-Liverpool man
Focus was one of the first words used by Liam Millar in his press conference on Thursday, as Preston North End aim to start turning their form around this weekend. It's something which comes naturally to the Canadian, with his determination and mentality striking you straight away when chatting away.
Millar lives and breathes football and sets high standards for himself. He is also an extremely positive individual, so North End's run of two wins in 12 games is a source of frustration. The ex-Liverpool man also had to shake off an injury to his ankle in recent weeks. He is hungry to finish the calendar year well, both individually and collectively.
The FC Basel loanee made a blistering start to life in Preston colours - scoring a fine solo goal against Plymouth Argyle. He has since been in and out of the team, used in a variety of roles with good and poor performances put in. Millar knew what he was in for when he signed for PNE on transfer deadline day though - and he's taking it all in his stride.
"At the moment, we're in a bit of a rough patch but in one game that could all change," he said. "I think I am getting the full experience of the Championship and this is what I wanted. I wanted to experience what it's like - the most competitive league in the world in my opinion. All the lads and supporters have been great with me. It's been a real pleasure. I am enjoying the challenge of playing against some of the teams in the league and a lot of the players.
"There are a lot of ex-Premier League players and you can see the level. You can feel how they are and how they play, which is another challenge of the Championship. And yeah, of course I wish I could maybe do a bit more in terms of scoring and assisting. But like I say, I'm trying to learn and improve, which is why I came here. I think the coaching staff lay out the plan of what they want in games and we try our best to execute it."
As touched on, manager Ryan Lowe has deployed Millar in different positions since his move to Deepdale. The 24-year-old has played on the wing, at wing-back, right midfield and even up top - coming off the bench. And while you will never get moans and groans from Millar, there is little doubt about his preferred role on the pitch.
"For sure, I think left wing is my best position," said Millar. "At the end of the day, the gaffer and coaching staff pick the formation and where you play. I am a team player and more than willing to play where they tell me. I am not going to complain about it. I've said before that it's not my favourite position, but I am willing to do it for the team and help them as much as possible.
"So, sometimes you've just got to put your head down and do the work, even if it's not your favourite. I still enjoy it in a way. I don't think it's terrible and I'm not saying I hate it. Of course it's not my favourite, but you've just got to do what you've got to do for the team."
Alongside the domestic campaign have been several international breaks this season. Millar is, of course, a Canada international. And while regular call-ups have come his way, match minutes have been in shorter supply. That is not ideal given the miles Millar clocks up when going away with his country, but there is only ever going to be one answer when the phone rings.
"Yeah, I think that has been a challenge of mine since I came to Europe," said Millar. "Playing for Canada, there are the long travels. Just now, I went from here to Canada, Canada to Miami, Miama to Jamaica, Jamaica back to Toronto - and they are all five hour flights. So, it is a lot and then I have to fly all the way back and play a game two days later. It's just embracing that and learning how your body works. The more I do it, the better I get at it.
"I am not as jetlagged as I was when I started, but it is a challenging part of being from North America. But, there is nothing I would take back for it, because playing for your country is the biggest accomplishment in football - in my opinion. To represent your country and play in the World Cup, like I did, is just the biggest accomplishment. I think the thing with me is that sometimes I might go there and not play that much.
"For me, that's okay, because it's the greatest honour and that's all I want. Of course, I go there hoping that I am going to play as much as possible. But, at the end of the day I've got to be a good team mate for those who are playing, to help them perform. If they perform well, then the country does better and I end up doing better. I think I am a little bit unlucky that probably the greatest Canadian player of all time (Alphonso Davies) is my age and plays in my position! I just go there and try and be as positive as possible."
Millar is on a season-long loan deal at Preston, but there have been indications from manager Ryan Lowe and director Peter Ridsdale of a longer stay. As for the player, though, he's keeping his cards relatively close to his chest for now and is focused on his football.
"I'm just trying to play every game, improve as much as possible and learn in every game," said Millar. "It is difficult playing in England and that's what I want. So, at the moment I am just focused on my current self and helping the team. Hopefully we can get into the Play-Offs - that's my goal for the season. And yeah, after all that's done I'll think about the long-term, of course."