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The Player Behind The Name: James Milner, Part Two

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Part two in this three part segment on Liverpool’s dynamic number seven

Manchester United v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

In part one of this three part segment, we looked at James Milner’s pre-Liverpool days and his prowess as a young lion for the England National team. Part two continues with James’ return to Newcastle United after his permanent move to Aston Villa fell through right before the transfer window had closed.

Milner’s football career, before Liverpool

Newcastle United (again)
At the start of the 2006-07 Premier League season, James Milner returned to Newcastle after his season long loan at Aston Villa and was welcomed back by his fellow teammates and then manager, Glenn Roeder – who confirmed that he planned to utilize Milner in plenty of games during the season. Roeder kept his word and James featured in the Newcastle starting line-up for the whole season, playing a vital role in Newcastle’s advancement through the group stage of the UEFA Cup. Milner’s first three goals of the season (first one on 1st of January 2007 vs Manchester United, second vs Birmingham City and the third vs West Ham United), were all from at least 20 yards away and hailed as stunning shots. This was the season where James Milner’s fluid adaptability was fully displayed for the first time – he had scored and set up goals and was comfortable doing so from both sides, using both feet. Roeder had only praise for Milner, stating that he was the hardest training player on the pitch. Milner went on to sign two new contracts with Newcastle during 2007; the first was signed in January and was valid until 2011 and the follow up contract, a four year deal, was signed in May, after Sam Allardyce took over as Newcastle manager for the 2007-08 season.

Milner was happy about his future at the club and stated that training under Big Sam were the best since I have been here. Allardyce in turn was concerned that Milner’s eagerness to play would at some stage cause him to burn out, physically and mentally and thusly, Milner was utilised mainly from the substitute bench during the early part of the 2007-08 season. Milner scored Newcastle’s 500th home Premier League goal in a 3 – 1 win over Tottenham Hotspur and Allardyce lavished praise on Milner throughout the season, stating that he was a hugely experienced Premier League Player. Amid rumours of a potential transfer deal between the Magpies and Liverpool and missing the final nine matches of the season due to a foot injury, James Milner handed in a written transfer request.

Milner made 67 appearances for the Magpies during his second stint and scored 12 goals.

Aston Villa return
On 29 August 2008, James signed a four year deal with Aston Villa, for a fee of GBP12 million and made his debut two days later, as a second half substitute against Liverpool. Milner scored two goals in his return as a Villa player on 4 January 2009 (his 23rd birthday) in Villa’s 2 – 1 win over Gillingham at Priestfield Stadium, in a third round FA Cup tie. Milner would go on to impress many people during his second Aston Villa stint and was named to the England senior squad for the first time on 7 February 2009. As the season drew to a close, Milner, at the tender age of 23 reflected that his time at Villa had been the most settled of his football career thus far as he had by that point already played under thirteen managers and caretakers.

Following the sale of captain, Gareth Barry to Manchester City at the start of the 2009-10 season, Milner moved into a central midfielder position and went on to be named Aston Villa Fans Player of the Year and PFA Young Player of the Year at the end of the season, with 12 goals to his name. 19 May 2010, saw Manchester City’s GBP 20 million offer for Milner rejected with Villa manager, Martin O’Neill later stating that Milner had indicated that he wanted to move but that the sale would be done at Villa’s valuation of the player.

Despite his impending move to Manchester City, ever the consummate professional, Milner played his last match for Aston Villa in their first match of the 2010-11 season on 14 August 2010, against West Ham and scored Villa’s third goal. He received a standing ovation for his efforts and rightfully so, when he was substituted during the final moments of the game.

Aston Villa went on to agree a deal for GBP 26 million with Manchester City, which included the player exchange of Stephen Ireland (now at Stoke City), on 17 August 2010.

Milner scored 17 goals during this time at Aston Villa and made 78 appearances for the club.

Manchester City
James Milner set up Gareth Barry’s goal (the first of the game) in his Manchester City debut on 23 August 2010 in City’s 3 – 0 win over Liverpool and went on to score his first competitive City goal in an FA Cup third round match against Leceister City as City went on to win the FA Cup in 2011.

Milner’s first Premier League goal as a City player came against Everton on 24 September 2011 and would go on to score his second against Aston Villa in October of 2011, followed by his two assists in City’s 6 – 1 thrashing of United at Old Trafford a week later. Milner scored his third goal of the 2011-12 season in City’s 3 – 0 win against Liverpool and in total, made 26 Premier League appearances in the 2011-12 season which saw Manchester City winning their first league title in 44 years.

Milner received his first red card in the Premier League on 20 October 2012 at West Brom. 13 January 2013 saw Milner become the first City player to score away at Arsenal in the League since 2007 when he scored City’s opening goal. City’s 2 – 0 win that day was also their first league win at Arsenal since 1975.

During his time at Manchester City, James scored 18 goals in 147 appearances and won the FA Cup in 2010-11, the Premier League in 2011-12 and the Football League Cup and the Premier League in 2013-14.

James agreed to become a Liverpool player on 4 June 2015 when he joined the club on a free transfer from Manchester City and on 7 August 2015, shortly before the start of the new Premier League season, it was announced that he would be the new vice captain. Milner went on to captain Liverpool for the first time in his third match for the club against Arsenal.

That wraps up James Milner’s lengthy career before his incredible efforts in LFC red. Stay tuned for Part three when we go into detail about James’ immense adaptability, how this has influenced his game throughout his career and we’ll end the segment with his international appearances at senior level.

Until next time,

Up the Reds!