LIAM Miller’s friend and former team mate Kevin McBride has spoken of his devastation at learning the one-time Celtic, Manchester United, Hibernian and Republic of Ireland midfielder is battling cancer.

Scottish football has united in its support of the 36-year-old since it emerged on Sunday evening that he had been diagnosed with the disease.

McBride, who played for Motherwell, Falkirk, Hibs and Dundee before retiring last year, first met Miller when they were both youth players at Celtic together and the pair struck up a friendship which has endured to this day.

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They went their separate ways back in 2004 – McBride moved on to Fir Park while Miller left for Old Trafford after impressing in the handful of appearances which he made for the first team at Parkhead.

However, they were reunited five years later when they both joined Hibs and they struck up a good central midfield partnership at Easter Road.

McBride admitted he had been left distraught when he found out about the illness that Miller, who has a wife and three young children, was suffering from earlier this year and has been in touch to offer his support.

The Scot spoke in glowing terms of the Irishman’s qualities both as a player on the park and as a person off it.

“I have known Liam since we were young boys coming through at Celtic,” he said. “We had flats next to each other in Carfin. He probably moved because he was sick of the sight of me! I moved on to Motherwell and he joined Manchester United. But we found ourselves back in the same team a few years later at Hibs.

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“It was a joy playing with a guy like Liam. I suppose we had different strengths – but he certainly had far more strengths than me! My job was simple – get the ball and give it to better players and he was one of them. I was lucky in that I had a few of them around about me and Liam was one of them.

“He could do everything. He could go box to box and he could play the holding role equally well. I don’t think I ever played with anyone who was fitter than him either. His fitness levels were absolutely ridiculous. He would always finish first in bleep tests – and then immediately go back to being his usual bubbly self.”

McBride added: “He was an absolute gem of a guy as well. We were good pals, we knew each other well, we were close. He was just one of those boys you couldn’t help but taking a liking to.

“He moved over to America a few years ago. He finished playing and I think he was doing some coaching. But we have always kept in touch. It is just heartbreaking for this to happen at his age. For something like this to happen to somebody so young really makes you question life. The game of football goes out of the window at times like this.

“He’s got a lovely family, a beautiful wife and three wonderful kids. I can’t imagine what they are going through just now. But I know his family will be staying strong for him, they are that kind of people.

“My thoughts are with him and his family. I have texted him since I found out. I got in touch to let him know I was thinking of him at this difficult time. Liam being Liam sent me a text back saying that he hoped everyone here was fine.”