Position: Central defender
From: Brentford - £65,000 + Barry Ashby - March 1994
Record: Played: 189(3) Scored: 6
To: Bristol City - £35,000 - November 1999
Career stats: Soccerbase
It is: The end of an era
So, Brentford let Keith Millen go for £65,000 plus Barry Ashby? Yeah, right. Nobody's that stupid. You'll be trying to tell
me that we got Steve Palmer for £135,000 next....
It really happened, though. You can only assume that whichever Brentford official was responsible for negotiating the deal
rated Barry Ashby pretty bloody highly. Or was a complete lunatic. Which amounts to much the same thing.
Brentford's loss has been Watford's gain. In five years of loyal service, Keith Millen has made no headlines. He
lends new meaning to the word "unspectacular"...but you don't necessarily want your central defenders to be spectacular,
particularly when they're as spectacularly shambolic as they were at the time of his signing. Along with the majestic
Colin Foster, the arrival of Millen was responsible for a staggeringly quick turn-around in our defensive fortunes, as a
'goals against' average of two per game suddenly gave way to clean sheets and enabled Watford to pull clear of relegation
peril. That year, the fans celebrated the last-ditch saviours - Colin Foster, Tommy Mooney, Dennis Bailey - while Millen, although
given credit, was already being shoved to one side.
It's been the same ever since. When the spotlight has shone on him, it's been by accident and the results have been unpredictable -
a comedy handball at Portsmouth, the winner in a penalty shoot-out at Bournemouth, a couple of goals that deflected off random
bits of his anatomy as he got in the way of other people's shots. Some fans will have noticed no more than that, in which
case they won't have seen the real Keith Millen at all.
The rest of the time, he was workmanlike. It's used as an insult, but it shouldn't be in this case - Keith Millen got
the job done. He did it with the absolute minimum of fannying about, he did it like a professional doing a day's hard graft. It was
precisely that almost tedious consistency that made him such a fabulous servant for Watford Football Club.
In the crucial Second Division championship season, he really came into his own. While Robert Page was playing the rugged hardman and
Tommy Mooney was off on some mission, both earning all the praise in the process, Millen was the one bringing coolness and
concentration to the back three.
Eventually, a combination of factors - age, injuries, new signings - forced him out of the side during the subsequent season as
the Hornets climbed the First Division. So he was there at the start but unable to be there at the finish - having never played
in the top flight, injury ruled him out of an away game at Coventry as suspensions to Page, Robinson and Williams briefly suggested
the possibility of a last hurrah. Sad, in a way.
If loyalty, calm temperament, dependability, consistency and more loyalty were the vital attributes for becoming a top class footballer, Keith Millen
could've been up there with the best of them. They're not and he wasn't. But you need bricklayers as well as architects - just as Millen
would probably look ridiculous in the swift cut-and-thrust of the Premiership, so Frank Leboeuf would probably look like an arse in the winter mud at
Keith Millen's CV says "lower division central defender". As good as it gets.