Following a calamitous Euro 2016 campaign with Roy Hodgson’s England squad, Liverpool vice-captain James Milner is looking to have talks with new boss Sam Allardyce to discuss - and perhaps end - his international career. Milner has been involved in four major tournaments with England, and has earned 61 caps as a senior international, but was barely used by Hodgson in France as the Three Lions bumbled their way to an early and embarrassing exit at the hands of Iceland.
An attractive option for England managers because of his versatility and willingness to quietly commit to the collective cause, Milner nonetheless found himself watching Hodgson’s peculiar blend of Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Jack Wilshere and, uh, Wayne Rooney do whatever it was they did in midfield. While the experience was undoubtedly disappointing for Milner personally, he is also considering whether England’s cause might be better served if he ceded his spot to a new face.
“Over the last couple of years with the England team I have not really played too much,” said the versatile vice-captain. “With the good young players we have coming through, it is pointless me taking up a spot just because I am reliable. I’ve been to four tournaments but if a younger guy had come in and maybe done the same job at Euro 2016, he would have taken a lot more from it than I [did].
“I have two young kids now and I think if I am traveling around and know I am not going to play that is something I am going to have to consider.”
To be fair, this wouldn’t be the only pointless thing that Hodgson did in France. Though Milner has never been one to rock the boat, there is a clear undercurrent of unhappiness over his lack of playing time in the tournament, coupled with a characteristic honesty and self-effacement in realizing that, at thirty years of age, the time may be nearing for a younger player to take his place. Still, Milner speaks warmly of Allardyce (who briefly managed Milner at Newcastle United), and if the new England manager decides the Liverpool vice-captain still has a role to play, it’s unlikely the midfielder will say no.
At the club level, Milner’s versatility and consistency will continue to be assets, even with youth players likewise making a case for themselves. Unless reinforcements are brought in, Liverpool’s depth at the fullback position seems paper thin - such that Milner is being tabbed by Jürgen Klopp as an option. If he is asked to play there during the regular season, Milner won’t bat an eyelid. He’s appeared almost everywhere on the pitch over his career.
As the man himself noted, there’s just one glaring exception: “I’m just looking for goalkeeper now to complete the set. It’s like hunting Pokemon, it’s the only one I need!”