KENNY Miller can still cover the ground at a decent rate of knots these days but it is his speed of thought that is key to him still making an impact at an age when most professionals have long since retired.

If there were a few puzzled looks when Dundee chose to give the 38-year-old a two-year contract following the end of his ill-fated time as Livingston manager, then there are not so many questioning that decision now. A hat-trick on Wednesday against Hamilton Academical means he has plundered five goals from his last three games and, as he approaches his 39th birthday this month, Miller looks as fresh now as he did when he was taking his first tentative steps in the game more than 21 years ago. He will look to extend that form against former club Rangers at Dens Park this afternoon.

Lee Mair knows all about Miller’s capabilities. The former Dundee player recalls numerous jousts with the striker over the years, including his “worst experience in football” when Miller scored a late winner against Mair’s St Mirren side in the 2010 League Cup final.

After a slow start to this season, Dundee are starting to build a bit of momentum as they look to move away from the bottom of the table, and keeping Miller fit, and scoring, will be vital to their progress.

“It was always a challenge as a defender coming up against Kenny as he never gave you a minute’s peace,” said Mair. “So it doesn’t really surprise me that he’s still scoring goals even at 38 as he’s done that throughout his whole career.

“Kenny has got a terrific knack of finding space in the penalty box to give himself a split-second to get his shot away and he’s a very clever player too. He’s still relatively sharp around the park but it’s the fact he’s got such a quick football brain that works to his advantage. He can see a situation unfolding often before a defender can, and it’s that movement that allows him to keep performing at the highest level.

“He wants to play the game properly. He can drop short to take a pass, find space behind the defence, or run the channels. He’ll still be playing and scoring goals in his forties.”

Mair, like Miller, enjoyed a wandering career that also included a stint at Dundee United where current Dundee manager Jim McIntyre was a team-mate. It does not come as a surprise to Mair to see McIntyre’s teachings starting to have the desired effect at Dens.

“You could tell even back then that Jim would go on to become a manager as he was a leader in the dressing room,” he said. “He’s one of those guys who can talk to anyone and not everybody has that skill. He was always someone who seemed to relate to everyone and that’s a great skill to take into management.

“He obviously had a bit of a setback when he left Ross County last year but he seems to be gradually making his mark at Dundee after a few heavy defeats at the start. If he can avoid relegation this season then that should be considered a huge success.”

To do so Dundee will likely need to emerge triumphant from what looks like a three-way battle involving St Mirren and Hamilton Accies at the foot of the Premiership. Mair came through the ranks as a youth player at Dundee but also spent five seasons at St Mirren – winning the 2013 League Cup – and admits he hopes both his former clubs can somehow avoid the drop.

“I think it will come down to these three teams all battling against the drop,” added the former Aberdeen player who now runs his own firm, Mair Savings, that helps companies cut down on running costs. “St Mirren are looking a bit brighter under Oran Kearney although they need to add goals to the team, Accies can always pull a win out of nowhere and Dundee have picked up, too. So it should be an interesting second half to the season.”