Industrious. Tireless. Workhorse. These are three adjectives that are commonly utilised to portray the playing style and ability of Manchester City’s 27-year-old midfielder, James Milner.
But often these terms are used as merely in empathy to disguise a perceived lack of ability from the Leeds-born player. Britain’s football-supporting public, in general, do not see Milner as anything more than a ‘tryer’, and I, for one, am at a loss to understand why.
Since Milner became the second youngest debutant Premier League history, and subsequently the youngest goal scorer in the Premier League on Boxing Day 2002, at the tender age of sixteen, he has shown immense quality with the ball, and sublime determination in defence. His opening goal for Leeds was to set up a fine career to date.
Milner’s achievements at Elland Road provided him with mass respect and support from the Leeds fans, but with Leeds in dire financial trouble, the player was sold to Bobby Robson’s Newcastle, as The Whites sold their assets for their survival.
A hefty slice of misfortune followed for the teenager as Robson was brutally relieved of his duties just 4 games into the new season. Robson’s replacement, Graeme Souness, was not such a big fan of Milner and he delivered a real low-blow to the Yorkshireman when he stated to the media “you’ll never win anything with a team of James Milners.”
James Milner first Elland Road goal v Chelsea
He was loaned out to Aston Villa but his return to the North East provided a change in fortune and he was soon to become recognised as a serious player within the league. He scored multiple goals from 20-plus yards and made the score sheet in the Tyne-Weir derby which inevitably would boost his popularity amongst the Toon faithful. During his time for the Magpies, he also became the record holder for the most number of appearances for the England under 21s side notching up a remarkable 46 games.
Villa were keen for Milner to return but this time it required a £12 million to prize the 22-year-old away from St. James’ Park. But this was how the man’s reputation had grown and Martin O’Neill was desperate to sign him.
Milner became somewhat of a cult hero at Villa and would step up to take the majority of set pieces and penalties for the club. He coolly slotted the ball home from 12 yards in the Carling Cup Final against Manchester United and his composure and maturity were being seen week in week out on the largest of stages and not only that, he was attracting the attention of the biggest clubs in England.
It was Manchester City who coughed up approximately £26 million for Milner.
And what a signing Milner has proved to be. He’s gone from strength to strength since joining the oil-rich Citizens in 2010 and Roberto Mancini has used the midfielder expertly during his tenure at the club. Milner is undoubtedly a player for the ‘big’ games and he’s stepped up to the plate on numerous occasions. Often he’s employed to counter the attacking threat of a terrorizing winger but his creativity can be devastating at times.
There weren’t many bigger games for Man City than on October 23rd 2011 where they annihilated Man United and proved to the world that the ‘Noisy Neighbours’ were a force to be reckoned with. It was Milner who provided the pass through a horde of players to Balotelli for that ‘why always me?’ goal and Milner was there again with the cross to assist Super Mario with the second goal of the game. City went on to win the game 6-1 and to win the Premier League.
Last Sunday afternoon was a crucial game for City’s title defence with The Red Devils having defeated Liverpool giving them a ten point lead over their rivals. The pressure on the City players to remain within touching distance was huge. But who was it that stepped up to the plate with a world class strike into the back of the net? James Milner, of course, with The Sky Blues’ first goal away to Arsenal since 2007. A good run onto a beautiful pass from Tevez and an unbelievable finish with venom. Then an assist in the form of a drilled cross for the second goal and it was job done for Man City.
At 27 years of age Milner is already the owner of a Premier League medal and an FA Cup medal and he’s entering the peak of his career with a club that is creating history. It’s scary to think what he might achieve. James Milner has it all.James Sutton Twitter @Suttyofficial [/info]