FORMER Ipswich Town hero Tommy Miller is at a wedding this weekend but could be forgiven for taking a sneaky peak at his phone on Saturday afternoon.

Two clubs close to his heart, the Blues and Sunderland, are going head-to-head in an eagerly-awaited League One showdown at Portman Road.

With both hotly-tipped for promotion, they will be equally keen to make an early statement of intent.

And for Miller, it's an eye-catching fixture between two clubs that played a key part of his illustrious career.

By his own admission, Ipswich gave him his best days on the pitch but the 40-year-old also played for Sunderland and is a Black Cats supporter.

"It's such a shame to see both clubs in League One," said Miller, who, having previously been a Blues youth-team prospect, signed for George Burley's Town from Hartlepool United in July 2001.

"I have fond memories of my time at both and it was especially enjoyable at Portman Road.

"I was only a young lad at the time and they'd just finished fifth in the Premier League and qualified for Europe.

"It was a massive opportunity and a huge step up.

"It took a while to get a run in the side but I learnt so much from some great players and real characters.

"The Joe Royle era, especially, was incredible and I loved being given a licence to push forward.

"Joe wanted us to score as many goals as possible by playing fast, attacking football. If we won 5-4, he was delighted!

"We had so many goals in the team thanks to the likes of Darren Bent, Pablo Counago, Darren Ambrose and Shefki Kuqi. Talented footballers but also fantastic professionals.

"Benty announced his retirement recently and he was an absolute goal machine.

"We lived near each other and spent a lot of time together.

"He'd run all day and get on the end of everything.

"He deserved every accolade and it was no surprise he went on to have a fantastic career and become a Premier League star.

"Just behind those guys, I was allowed to do what I did best - score goals from midfield - and it was definitely the best time of my career.

"I had success elsewhere, like winning promotion via the play-offs with Huddersfield.

"But in terms of the role I had, and the freedom I was given, it has to be Ipswich. The shackles were off."

Miller became a firm fans' favourite during his time at Portman Road.

In four years, he made over 100 appearances, scoring 36 goals, and he was a driving force in the club reaching the play-offs in both 2004 and 2005 (losing on both occasions to West Ham).

During the latter campaign, he contributed 15 goals but, after more heartache, it was time for a fresh start.

With his contract up, he took the opportunity to move back to the North-East and join Sunderland - then in the Premier League and managed by former Town boss Mick McCarthy.

"The only disappointment from my time at Ipswich was that we weren't able to get over the line and achieve promotion," said Miller, now assistant manager at National League North side Spennymoor Town.

"Missing out on the automatic spots, despite being so close, was a kick in the teeth and, unfortunately, we faltered when it mattered most.

"It's a real pity because had we gone up, it could have changed the course of history.

"Players would have stayed and things might have been very different.

"Instead, Sunderland came calling and it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.

"We were relegated from the Premier League into the Championship during my time there and my game changed a bit, under Mick.

"Dean Whitehead, my teammate, also liked to get forward from midfield and there was a bit more emphasis on me sitting back.

"The shackles were on a bit and, unfortunately, we got what we deserved - relegation.

"Sunderland are a massive club, though, and had Mick been given the money subsequent managers received, things might have been different.

"It's a bit like Jim Magilton (who, as manager, brought Miller back to Portman Road for a third spell in July 2007) at Ipswich.

"Everyone knows what a fiery, passionate character he was but he was also a fantastic manager, with so many great ideas.

"He would have been a real success had he been given more time and the money others have received since."

Miller is looking forward to seeing old pal Magilton this weekend and is still in contact with several former Blues teammates.

"You meet some amazing people in football and when you bump into each other, it's like you've never been away," he said.

"I happened to do my A Licence coaching course with (former Ipswich keeper) Kelvin Davis.

"We hadn't seen each other or spoken for a couple of years, yet when we got together again it was like we'd never been apart."

Miller hopes to get to an Ipswich match this season, as his former club strive for a swift return to the Championship.

And he says he will be interested to see how players like summer signing James Norwood fare, having trodden a similar path to him in stepping up from a lower level - Tranmere Rovers, in the striker's case - before signing at Portman Road.

"James has got great pedigree and a fantastic goalscoring record," said Miller, who slotted home a winning penalty for Town against Sunderland in April 2004.

"He's exactly what Ipswich need in League One.

"In terms of signing players, and the finances involved, people have to be realistic.

"However, I can certainly say that from my experiences, there are some very good players in the lower leagues and even non-league.

"Nearly every week I come across players who I believe could play at a higher level and there are many hidden gems."