Profile of James Milner

It is one of football’s myths that top European players are only prepared to switch clubs if the new employer can offer Champions League football. Sometimes that new club’s history and traditions are really important too and that was proved when experienced England international James Milner agreed to join Liverpool in the summer of 2015 as soon as his Manchester City contract had expired at the end of June. Liverpool knew that they would be gaining the services of a ’model professional’ who has never made the headlines for the wrong reasons during a somewhat nomadic career so far.

James Philip Milner was born in a suburb of the Yorkshire city of Leeds so it wasn’t a surprise that his early promise as a footballer was recognised by his local club, Leeds United, because he joined their Academy when he was only ten years old. As well as making excellent progress with his club Milner was also called up to represent his country at two different age groups before he had signed his first professional contract. He was still a few weeks short of his 17th birthday when Terry Venables gave him his senior debut in an away match at West Ham United which the visitors won 4-3 with Milner coming on for Jason Wilcox a few minutes from time. Seventeen more Premier League appearances (and two goals) followed by the end of the season but only one of these was from the start.

Leeds, beset by off-the-field problems which caused financial meltdown, were relegated from the top division a year later, a season in which young Milner had a useful loan-spell with Swindon Town (6 appearances, 2 goals) as well as adding thirty Premier League matches to an already-impressive total for a teenager. Despite having signed a five-year contract with Leeds early in 2003 the midfielder agreed a deal of similar length with Newcastle United less than 18 months later. Although used mainly on the left by Leeds he found himself playing mostly on the right under the man who signed him for Newcastle, Bobby Robson, but Robson was succeeded by John Carver (caretaker-manager) and Graeme Souness before Milner had really got settled in the north-east. It was Souness who arranged for Milner to go on loan to Aston Villa in 2005, where he was reunited with a man he had worked under at Leeds, David O’Leary. Villa finished 5th from bottom in 2005/06 and Newcastle only finished marginally higher than that in the next two seasons on his return to St James' Park as Milner made 91 more Premier League appearances in those three seasons.

After playing the full 90 minutes in Newcastle’s opening two league fixtures of 2008/09 Milner returned to Villa Park, this time on a permanent deal with a four-year contract. Oddly, something similar happened just two years later because after playing in Villa’s opening fixture of 2010/11 he was on the move again, this time to Manchester City, and his City debut came in a comfortable 3-0 home win over Liverpool.

Milner will wear the iconic number seven

Milner has missed very few first-team matches for Manchester City in almost five seasons and for most of that time he has been a regular in the senior England squad as well. He is closing in on four hundred Premier League appearances and has scored a combined total of over fifty goals for the five English clubs he has played for. Throughout his career he has received acclaim not only for his prowess as a footballer but also for the way he conducts himself as a human being. Still just the right side of thirty this is a man who can be as influential in the dressing-room as he can be on the field of play. Considering that his services have been acquired without having to pay another club a fee, though a hefty wage package and signing-on fee, this looks to be an excellent piece of business by Liverpool Football Club. Milner is a true professional greatly valued by his employers.

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