Ricky Miller’s story is one that encapsulates both the romance and the tragedy of the English football pyramid.
Born in Hertfordshire in March 1989, the journeyman was on the books of Charlton Athletic as a youngster but spent the early part of his senior career bouncing around semi-professional teams across the country.
Then, in the summer of 2014, aged 25 and coming off the back of a stellar season with Boston United in what was then the Conference North, Miller was handed his big break in the form of a move to League Two Luton Town.
It was his first foray into the professional game, but it ended in disaster less than a year later when he was sacked following allegations of assault.
— NinetyMinutesOnline (@90MinsOnline) August 31, 2017
When Miller was eventually found innocent of the charges in December 2015, he was back in non-league with Dover Athletic, where he had spent a successful month on loan the previous season.
At that point it was difficult to see the diminutive striker having any sort of future as a professional.
Fast forward just a year-and-a-half, and Miller is gearing up to make his debut for League One Peterborough United.
It is a remarkable resurrection for the 28-year-old and an opportunity that even he must surely have thought had passed him by.
A quick glance at Miller’s list of previous employers shows you that he has struggled to settle at a club since starting his journey with Stamford in 2006.
In fact, if you were to name the forward’s footballing ‘home’, it would probably be with the Daniels; he has spent four separate spells there across his career to date.
However, it was with Boston United in the 2013-14 campaign that he made his name, bagging 28 goals in all competitions and winning the Conference North Player of the Year.
Keen to test himself at a higher level, Miller signed for newly promoted Luton of League Two on a free transfer, but almost immediately was sent out on loan to Dover in the National League.
10 games and five goals later, he was recalled by the Hatters and thrust straight into the team for a trip to Hartlepool United, which his side went on to win 2-1.
He kept his place for the next game, a 3-1 triumph over Dagenham & Redbridge, but was substituted after less than an hour of play and would not start a league match for the Kenilworth Road outfit again.
— NinetyMinutesOnline (@90MinsOnline) September 3, 2017
As Luton surged into promotion contention, Miller’s time on the pitch became increasingly limited and he played just over 20 minutes of football in the final three months of the campaign.
Ultimately the club missed out on the play-offs by three points, but worse was to come for the attacker.
After the club’s end of season awards night in April 2015, Miller and team-mate Shaun Whalley were arrested in connection with the alleged assault of a taxi driver in Hockliffe.
Whilst Whalley was not charged due to a lack of evidence, the striker’s case went to court where he was accused of racially insulting and headbutting the victim.
Luton released him from his contract on May 18 of that year, and a month later he rejoined Dover.
On December 8, he was cleared of all charges and had already bagged eight league goals for the Whites; he would go on to add a further 13, including one in a play-off semi-final defeat to Forest Green.
And yet it was last season that he really hit his stride, finding the net 40 times in the league, including an incredible five hat-tricks.
I was present as Miller bagged a treble away at Solihull Moors in November 2016, where none of the 800 or so people present were left in any doubt as to the quality that he can bring to the table.
The goals perfectly showcased his credentials as an all-round forward; the first a driven effort from the edge of the area, the second coolly slid past the keeper when one on one, and the third a typical poacher’s finish, reacting quickest after strike partner Ross Lafayette’s long-range piledriver came back off the post.
Miller’s overall display was an attacking tour de force, with incisive dribbling, incessant harrying of the Solihull defenders and, of course, a lethal eye for goal.
It was the type of performance which had myself and I am sure a good many others at Damson Park wondering why he had not been able to cut it in the professional game.
— NinetyMinutesOnline (@90MinsOnline) August 31, 2017
As he anxiously awaits his Peterborough debut, Miller has been given an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past.
Controversy has followed him to the Posh, with a six-game ban for biting an opponent back in April meaning he is yet to pull on the blue shirt in a competitive match.
Now available for selection, the front man may have to bide his time thanks to his side’s impressive start to the new campaign, which sees the table-toppers undefeated in League One with four wins and a draw from five matches.
Manager Grant McCann is playing with a vibrant 3-5-2 formation that has seen Peterborough in free-scoring form, and the setup could see Miller playing in a slightly different role than that which he frequently occupied at Dover.
With the Whites, he often operated on the flanks as an inside forward, but it appears he is being geared towards a central striking berth at the ABAX Stadium.
Wherever he plays, there is likely to be a great deal of interest in his progress not just from Peterborough fans, but from anyone who caught a glimpse of the striker during his glorious scoring streak last term.
Recreating that form in league football is the next big challenge for Miller, but he has beaten the odds just to be there and may yet do so again.