Why James Milner deserves the respect of the footballing world
Football is an extremely rewarding sport and at the same time can be cruel to those involved in it. Many players become legends of the game due to their longevity and their performances. On the other hand, some players burst on to the scene with a bang but their careers eventually peter out due to various reasons.
However, longevity in isolation cannot guarantee a player of legendary status. It needs to be combined with consistency, respect for the game, respect for peers and respect for the fans. One such player who has successfully combined these aspects is James Milner.
The Englishman began his professional career with Leeds in 2002 as a fresh 16-year-old. Since then, he has played for Swindon Town, Aston Villa, Newcastle United and Manchester City. He is currently at Liverpool and has made a total of 714 appearances so far in his entire career.
The focus here is on the consistency, professionalism and respect for the game that the former Manchester City man has shown. The following are a few reasons why the Liverpool No.7 deserves the respect of the football community.
Versatility and Professionalism
Milner has played in 10 different positions across the football field; in every position except centre-half. The special part about this is that Milner has never complained about a certain position being his favourite and that he is being played out-of-position, that too in a world where strikers complain even if they are played on the wing on some occasions and midfielders complain when played in holding or attacking roles when they do not prefer to do either of the two.
When Liverpool signed Milner on a free in 2015, he was evidently brought in to add strength to the Liverpool midfield. However, Alberto Moreno's poor form and the lack of depth at left-back at Liverpool prompted Jurgen Klopp to play Milner at left-back through most of the 2016-17 season. The Englishman adapted to that position like fish to water and excelled during that season.
In fact, he has played so well in that position that Klopp hasn't replaced Moreno since his departure, trusting Milner to deputise for Andy Robertson.
He has also played at right-back whenever Klopp needed to give Trent Alexander-Arnold a break or when he has needed to rotate the squad. He has played in the front three and on the wings in a 4-4-2 formation in the past couple of seasons.
These traits go on to show that Milner is a versatile player who conducts himself with the utmost professionalism.
Longevity and Consistency
It seems that James Milner has been playing football since the dawn of time. The Leeds youth academy graduate played his first senior game for the Whites at the age of 16 in 2002. He has gone from strength-to-strength over the course of 17 years playing a combined total of 714 games, scoring 84 goals and assisting 123 strikes.
At the age of 33, Milner shows no signs of slowing down and arguably has at least a couple more top-flight seasons in his legs.
Former Liverpool striker Michael Owen is a prime example of burning out early. The striker also began his footballing career at a similar age and although he was world-class, he fell off the map quite early. Conversely, Milner has been playing at the highest level of European football for a long time.
Even though he is one of the most senior members of the Liverpool squad, he regularly pips most of the younger players around him in terms of fitness. At the start of the 2019/20 season, the 33-year-old came out on top against 15 other Liverpool players in the gruelling pre-season lactate test.
The former Leeds and Manchester City man has always kept himself in excellent condition and this has helped him in establishing his place both in attack and defence.
Milner was always a hard-working player who made up for any lack of technical ability with tireless running and determination. He was a reliable and s solid player at Aston Villa, Newcastle and Manchester City. However, he has taken his consistency to the next level in the Red jersey earning the nicknames, 'Mr. Consistency' and 'Mr. Reliable'.
Many pundits have observed that Milner is a player who regularly puts up 7/10 o higher performances, rarely having a bad game. He may not catch the eye of the crowd like his more gifted teammates like David Silva, Philippe Coutinho or Mohamed Salah, but always gives it his all and never disappoints.
Further, his consistency has also extended to his penalty-taking ability. Although he was never a regular penalty taker for any of his former clubs, Klopp chose him to help Liverpool benefit from spot-kicks.
The Liverpool vice-captain has repaid this faith spectacularly. He has taken 20 penalties for Liverpool across all competitions and has hit the back of the net on 18 occasions. He has also time and again won the game for Liverpool from the spot.
Milner has been putting in consistent performances since he donned the white jersey in 2002. His fitness and endurance have made sure that he has been able to successfully survive at the highest level of football for over 17 years.
The midfielder has won two Premier League titles, one FA Cup, one English League Cup, one UEFA Super Cup and one Champions League, proving that hard work always pays off.Published 14 Dec 2019, 11:43 IST