On form, James Milner might not just be the best English left back, he might be the best left back playing in England. If you’d put that to people a year ago, most would have given you an odd look, yet that’s the realty. And it has led to questions about Milner perhaps reconsidering his international retirement.
Following Saturday’s win over Swansea City, Liverpool’s left back and penalty specialist was quick to dismiss the thought. Today, he went into greater depth on the issue, speaking with the club’s official website about his changing role, his England retirement, and entering into the final phase of his football career.
“It’s obviously different,” said Liverpool’s vice-captain. “It’s a new phase for me in my career. To concentrate on Liverpool is obviously the big thing for me now. We had a [closed doors friendly] in the international break to keep us ticking over. I felt pretty fresh going into the next round of fixtures after the break.
“I had done it for a lot of years, going away with the national team and coming back—and sometimes it was tough when you had been travelling, had a couple of days, and were back into the fixtures. For me personally, and hopefully Liverpool, it can be a positive thing that you do feel fresher after the internationals.”
That break isn’t actually a break for the players, who are still busy training at Melwood as well as taking part in the odd scrimmage game as was the case during the September break. It does, though, mean less travel. And it means spending the night in your own bed rather than on the road in a hotel.
It also means less stress, and Milner pointed to the lighter mental load of not having two extra competitive matches to worry about as a key bonus for him—and the kind of thing that can help a player to prolong his career if he’s willing to make the call, make the break, and retire from international play.
“With the international break, it’s 10 days where I don’t have a competitive fixture to worry about,” he added. “It just gives you that bit of respite. You’re obviously training hard, but you have heard so many people talk about it prolonging their club careers—and it’s not only a physical thing.
“I think it’s a mental thing in giving you that time to switch off and feel fully refreshed. Saying that, representing your country is a massive thing and something I always thoroughly enjoyed and did with great honour.”