|Desc||One of the most versatile players in Premier League history, with successful spells at Leeds, Newcastle, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Liverpool. A two-time title winner who seems to get better with age|
|Org||xxxx National Team|
|Club as Player||Leeds United|
2019 07 21 Retrieve
[Liverpool midfielder James Milner has revealed that the club are yet to open discussions regarding a potential contract extension] As it stands, last year we spoke to the club and asked them if they wanted to do something and they said not at that time. We haven’t heard anything since, so that’s where we are at. All I can do is concentrate on my football and do what I can. But in terms of where I am with my contract, that’s what has happened up until now and I haven’t heard anything from the club
[Milner doesn’t see his veteran status as a barrier to success moving forward] I’d like to think so. Everyone pipes on about my age and stuff I understand you are going to get that. There are three things to it: availability, fitness and performance level. Hopefully I am delivering all three. I am just going to keep concentrating on my football, keep contributing to Liverpool and be the best player I can be for as long as possible. I remember making my debut and how lucky I was to have senior players around me. If I can be half as good with these guys as the older players were with me at Leeds, I will help them as much as I can
2019 07 22 Retrieve
[James Milner was scathing of Joris Gnagnon’s disgraceful challenge on Yasser Larouci that marred the friendly between Liverpool and Sevilla] Was it too much? I thought so yes, it was a disgraceful tackle. We know it’s only a friendly, but I mean, you don’t see many red cards in friendlies, do you? Their guy said it is down to the referee and it’s a tackle and a foul, but it’s very disappointing. We [responded] in the right way. It is a tough one for the referee because you don’t want to use red cards in friendlies and it is a rare thing to see. It’s not easy to get hold of the game, you don’t normally see too many tackles [like Gnagnon’s] but it is a disgrace really
2019 08 13 Retrieve
[James Milner wants Liverpool to get into the habit of winning trophies, with the UEFA Super Cup presenting them with another opportunity to claim major silverware] I think it’s very important - I think you want to get in that habit of winning trophies. I think the Super Cup’s a special trophy to win because you’ve got to win a big trophy to get there as well, so I think it’s important. We’re playing against another top team, another English team, obviously, again. I think it’s a good way to start the season if you can win a trophy and it’s more silverware for the club if you can do that
[Milner expecting a tough test from a Chelsea side working under the guidance of club legend Frank Lampard] We know it’ll be a tough game and two good teams, early in the season which is never easy as well. Obviously there’s been a lot of players away from both teams in various tournaments in the summer, so it’s always a tough time of the season with players at different stages of their fitness and [having had] different [amounts of] time-off and things like that, but it’s the sort of game where everyone will click in straight away and be ready for it. And at that level, no matter how long you’ve had off, just because of what a good game it’ll be to play in and it’s a chance to win silverware and there will be a great atmosphere as well. It’s important to get a good start to the season and there’s nothing better than winning a game like that
2019 09 03 Retrieve
[Sadio Mane has laughed off his supposed strop on the Liverpool bench at Burnley, with James Milner having offered an alternative theory as to why the Senegalese was so angry] Maybe I misread this, but I’m pretty sure Sadio was reacting to me not getting brought on #getmillyon #thanksmate
2019 09 26 Retrieve
[Though far from their scintillating best, James Milner was happy to see a number of younger Liverpool players stake their claim for more minutes and increase competition for places] It’s always tough when you have a mixture of guys who haven’t played many minutes and a group of youngsters, but you could see the style of football we wanted to play. We lost our way a little bit in the second half, and didn’t keep the ball as well, but I thought it was a pretty solid performance. When you look at how good our squad is, it’s not easy for the youngsters to get to the level they need to be, but they’ve shown they want to get better and better. Everyone is pushing, and that’s what the senior boys need - competition for places
2019 09 26b Retrieve
[Milner hailed the displays of his inexperienced team-mates such as Harvey Elliott, Caoimhin Kelleher and Rhian Brewster] It’s not easy to play the way the manager wants to play so to come in and do so well shows how good they are. They’re pushing, we see the hunger and they’re improving all the time. That’s what we want and hopefully we can push them and they’ll keep on pushing us
2019 09 26c Retrieve
[James Milner could have been forgiven for feeling his age as he lined up for Liverpool’s Carabao Cup clash with MK Dons on Wednesday] It shows how good they are to be anywhere near our first team. But then they’re expected to come in and play the way we play, which isn’t easy. I thought they all did very well. That’s what we’re there to do, to help. That’s the role. Hopefully, the more they’re with us and they train with us, they’ll feel more confident as well. It’s a fine line between knowing what’s expected and the standards and also giving them that confidence as well. Every player’s different so it’s about getting it right, but I think you can see [with] the boys there’s so much talent there, and their attitude is there as well
[It was the performance of 18-year-old Scouser Curtis Jones which caught his eye] It’s tough to keep going. You see glimpses but there are so many distractions. They have to keep their foot on the accelerator and keep pushing as hard as they can. I’ve seen a massive difference in Curtis in the last year. He’s always had that ability but seems a bit more mature now; [he’s] defending well, getting his angles right when he’s defending. He needs that guidance, and that’s what I was saying about a fine line. There are times when you need to encourage but also times where you need a rocket as well. Like I say, over the last year I’ve seen that difference in him. I think he’s realised as well that if you want to play for Liverpool, that’s as important as the stuff on the ball. Not only that, he’s got so much ability and skills and tricks, and it’s about using them in the right area. I think he’s learning that more and more now - you don’t want him doing it on the halfway line, you want him getting hold of it in the final third. That’s where you do your tricks and get people in the box. I said to him before the game, ‘I wouldn’t want to defend you in the box, so get them in there and drive at them’. He’s got great ability.
[Milner was also enthused by what he saw from the Reds’ other young talents] Harvey hasn’t been with us that long, but you see how good he is on the ball, very comfortable. But he impressed me with his closing down today and his reactions. Rhian Brewster is an out-and-out goalscorer, you know that he’ll score goals. He’s got that hunger and he’s learning from one of the best there is at the other side of the game, Bobby Firmino. He might not be able to do the Cruyffs that Bobby can do but he is ruthless in front of goal, he’ll get plenty of goals. Ki-Jana, another one, great talent, very comfortable on the ball and great for him to get a goal, fantastic, and hopefully that will give him that boost
2019 10 14 Retrieve
[James Milner believes Jurgen Klopp’s exuberant touchline antics are part of an authentic package that helps drive Liverpool forward] The biggest thing with the manager is that what you see is what you get. He doesn’t have one front for the cameras and then he’s completely different with the players. He’s honest with the players and he lives every minute of it. He’s on the side and he’s bouncing around, he wants to be out there. That energy’s big for us when we’re down. He seems to judge it right, when to put an arm round the shoulder after a game. If we haven’t played well or something he knows what to say at half-time, or if you need a rocket he’ll give you that as well. He seems to judge those situations very well
[Now 33, ex-England international Milner is the most senior member of Klopp’s squad] You’ve always got to try to improve as much as you can, so I’ll go into every training session, every day, with that mindset that you never know anything. I’m sure the manager’s learned things and he’s been in football a lot longer than me. I think if you’ve got the mindset where you think that you know everything, you’re going to be struggling
2019 10 22 Retrieve
[James Milner believes the nominations say a lot about Liverpool as a unit as they prepare to continue their Champions League title defence against Genk on Wednesday] I think it’s well deserved. The lads that are in there, I think it says a lot about the team and the job we are doing as a club and a squad collectively. There are probably a couple more who weren’t in there who could have been so that says a lot about the team and getting to back to back Champions League finals helps as well.
We play as a squad, the team comes first, everyone does their job on both sides of the ball, individual awards are great, they come along but you have to be doing the business as a team and winning trophies as a team. You can see that is the mentality of the squad, the team always comes first. If there are individual awards to be picked up along the way that’s great and its recognition for the job that you’re doing but every single player would sacrifice individual awards for the team trophies
2019 10 23 Retrieve
[James Milner has reacted to Manchester United legend Patrice Evra naming the Liverpool midfielder as his toughest opponent] I played against Messi many times in the wide position, and I won’t say he’s easy to mark, but I could deal with it. It’s when he goes central, that’s when he’s dangerous because he can turn on the right or left. James Milner, only because he could frustrate me because I’m an attacking defender and he’s following me everywhere and challenging me in the air and I would just get frustrated sometimes. ‘Just go and attack and leave me alone!’
When I was playing the derby against Manchester City, I had him and then he went to Liverpool and I had him again. So yeah, the one who frustrated me the most was James Milner. Of course, Aaron Lennon was the type of player that, if I wasn’t 100 per cent fit, would run behind me, and defender’s hate when a player runs behind. Lennon’s quick movement was difficult to play against, but yeah, it’s James Milner
[With a reporter pressing Milner to name the player he found the most frustrating to play against] Players? I don’t know really, it’s hard to name one obviously but it’s nice to know Patrice thought I was a nuisance.
[Milner is another who has gone toe-to-toe with Barca superstar Messi] Messi wasn’t happy. He was giving me plenty in Spanish at half-time. He was calling me ‘burro’. It translates as donkey but I think it’s also used in Spanish football as a term for someone who goes around kicking people
2019 10 23b Retrieve
[Reds captain James Milner hailed Oxlade-Chamberlain’s hard work off the pitch as he finally reaps the rewards of an arduous return to fitness] Everyone’s delighted for him. It’s the things that people don’t see behind the scenes, the hard work around the training ground. He’s got a great strike and he’s good in those pockets. It’s great to have him back and he’s another option in that midfield, where there’s already great competition for places
2019 10 24 Retrieve
[James Milner hails Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s amazing return to form] I am delighted for him, it is amazing. Obviously it is not easy when you have been out for so long but you can see it all coming back bit by bit. Obviously he has always had that goal threat and he scored a couple of great goals tonight. That is what we want, everyone back, fit and firing and providing competition for places all over the field and that is what we have got now
He was delighted in the dressing room, of course. Everyone can imagine what he has gone through with the long hours in the gym on his own and then even when he has come back, there’s been frustration over where he was before his injury and that [lack of] sharpness and how he felt on the field with the speed of the game and things like that. We have seen all that and try to help him through, so when he gets a night like this it is amazing and makes it all worth it. Great work from him but also the club’s medical staff to help get him fit
I think everyone is always pushing for places. And the manager has a tough decision to make every time he picks a team. That is exactly what he wants and while it doesn’t make his life any easier, it is what you need if you want to challenge on multiple fronts and that is what we want to do. We need people challenging for spots in all positions
[Asked about the challenges of playing at full-back, rather than his preferred midfield role] I wouldn’t say it is easy, it’s obviously a different position and different areas of the pitch in terms of knowing when to counter-press, those impulses and what to do positionally, so yes, I wouldn’t say it was easy but I just try to do it to be the best of my ability
2019 10 25 Retrieve
[James Milner admits to receiving stick over his age from Liverpool team-mate Virgil van Dijk, but the 33-year-old believes he still has plenty left in the tank as he endeavours to earn a new contract at Anfield] To be honest I feel fine, I feel the same. I’m waiting for that day when we do a session and I feel it a bit harder than the boys. It’s always nice when I’m asking the young lads if I’m finding a hard session tough and they’re agreeing with me. I don’t know, they might be doing that just to make me feel better! Virgil gives me plenty of stick - that’s what one of the celebrations last season was about [his ‘old man’ celebration after scoring against Cardiff back in April]. He’s always joking. When there’s Premiership Years or a game in black and white on the TV in the treatment room, he’ll say, ‘Milly, what number are you?’ It’s good fun, but I feel really good at the moment. I feel no different to how I have been. I’ll keep working hard, keep pushing and keep contributing as long as I can
I’ve always tried to look after myself as well as I can in the gym and with eating and drinking. I’ve never touched alcohol. I don’t have anything against it but early on I made that decision. And making sure I don’t have too much Ribena as well, that’s important!
2019 10 28 Retrieve
[James Milner has implored Liverpool fans nervous at the prospect of Premier League glory] They started getting quite nervous early in the title race last season. It was the first time I had sensed that atmosphere at Anfield. But nothing really changes in the dressing room. The lads are always calm and confident and hopefully winning the Champions League settles people down. I hope they can just enjoy it. As much as people want the trophy, it’s the journey that you enjoy most.
It’s so difficult to win the league. I’ve been fortunate to win it a couple of times [with Man City] and last year we were so close. We were flying. We were winning every week and felt we should be 10 points clear. And you’re still second.
Last year, if you’d have said: ‘You’ll only lose one [league] game all season,’ I’d have snapped your hand off. But it wasn’t good enough. This season we have a team that can do it. I think there’s a calm around the club, both inside and outside, and people are confident we can get it done. But Man City are so good they’re capable of winning every game. The gap is not that big so we have to just keep pushing, and not worry too much about the title.
2019 10 28b Retrieve
[James Milner believes the atmosphere at Premier League games is being ruined by VAR] I’m not a fan at all. It might just be the old school part of me, but I think there’s still too much debate around VAR. Goal-line technology is incredible - it’s instant decision. Black and white. But it’s very hard to use VAR when you’ve still got opinions on the decisions and the atmosphere is being ruined. You score, there’s an explosion of noise and then it’s over to VAR. You wait. Is it a goal?
[Milner benefited from a late VAR intervention to convert a stoppage-time penalty in Liverpool’s 2-1 win against Leicester City on October 5] I had the experience of a penalty the other week. That was a new experience as they’re debating if it’s going to be a penalty. I think there’s use for it - if we can improve it. But football is a game of human error on the field and in officiating as well. They have a very tough job and I’m all for making their lives easier, but not at the expense of the flow of the game. If the VAR took away controversy I’d back it 100 per cent. But we’re still having discussions about VAR. I don’t think many footballers feel differently
It’s so difficult to win the league. I’ve been fortunate to win it a couple of times and last year we were so close. We were flying. We were winning every week and felt we should be 10 points clear. And you’re still second. Last year, if you’d have said: ‘You’ll only lose one [league] game all season,’ I’d have snapped your hand off. But it wasn’t good enough. This season we have a team that can do it. I think there’s a calm around the club, both inside and outside, and people are confident we can get it done. But City are so good they’re capable of winning every game. The gap is not that big so we have to just keep pushing, and not worry too much about the title
2019 11 02 Retrieve
[James Milner reveals that he talks in Spanish in his sleep] I started using a sleeptalking app years ago. I don’t use it every day but Robbo [Andy Robertson] and I had a laugh. Robbo said: ‘I also talk in my sleep’. So we used it and we found it was me who was doing most of the talking - in Spanish. Robbo was making farm noises
2019 12 06 Retrieve
[James Milner remains open to anything as his contract at Liverpool runs down] I’m open to anything. I’d be interested in going abroad and experiencing a new league, a new style of football, new lifestyle, too, but that all just depends on where it is and also on my family too. I think I’d be more interested in coaching than the media side. I see people going into punditry all the time but I think in terms of who I’ve played for and with and what I’ve learnt as a player it would be a shame not to pass that on within football to young players. Then again you see coaches and managers that are doing well for a time and then it doesn’t go so well and the amount of stick they then get week in, week out
[Milner added on talk of a potential homecoming at Elland Road] Well, yes, I am a Leeds lad and I want the team to do well, I’m a fan. I always follow the team and the results. So you can never say ‘no’ or even ‘yes’ because just so much changes in football, you never know what happens. At the moment I’m a Champions League winner with Liverpool and this year we’re really going for the Premier League, but I don’t know what the future will hold. It would be amazing to play for Leeds again but no-one from the club has ever contacted me about that. People talk about my age and that I’m getting on, and could I continue after Liverpool, but I don’t think I’m typical physically for my age
2019 12 13 Retrieve
[James Milner has signed a new three-year contract with Liverpool which will keep him at the club until 2022] I’ve been lucky and privileged to play for this club for four-and-a-half years now, it has been an amazing time seeing how the club is changing and developing. I just enjoy coming into training every day, working with this group of players, this manager and coaching staff, and being part of this football club. Obviously the support we get is incredible all over the world. It’s an amazing place to play football, it’s an amazing time to be at the football club. We have put a couple of trophies on the board, it would be great to be part of a few more. We had discussions with the club and this was obviously the ideal for me, this was what I wanted to do - stay and play at the highest level as long as I can. Liverpool is an unbelievable place to be and we’re a very, very good football team and hopefully we can keep improving. Obviously the gaffer waited to sign his dependent on whether I signed mine, so that makes me a feel bit more important!
2019 12 14 Retrieve
[James Milner hailed Liverpool’s battling qualities after they maintained their remarkable Premier League form] They were always going to be up for it, a new manager coming in. We know what Nige is like as well. They’re having a bad time but we knew it would be tough and it proved to be that
[Asked about the breezy conditions] It’s not nice, obviously. It affects everything, the touch, the longer passes, crosses, but you have to deal with it. It’s the same for both teams and sometimes you’ve just got to scrap it out. It can’t always be pretty and nice football, and that’s an important result, to get those three points in the way we did, battling it out
2019 12 14b Retrieve
[James Milner admits the Reds had to dig deep once more] It was one of those days, the wind made it difficult. We went long a few more times than we would have liked. They were always going to be up for it, new manager coming in. It can’t always be pretty and nice football, but that’s an important result. To get those three points in the way we did, battling it, it was a big time to get the three points
Keep recovering, concentrate on the next game, prepare and go again. This team is so good at that, really good mentality. It’s not easy, but that’s the price of being successful. We want to win every game and keep pushing. You can see the quality in the squad because changes are being made all the time
2019 12 17 Retrieve
[James Milner is hoping Liverpool can win so many trophies in years to come that fans forget which year each was won] Since I have been at the club it was important for the club to get that first trophy on the board. We had been unfortunate in a few finals but the team has moved on and we have heard many people talk about it. We don’t want to be remembered as the team who won one major trophy. We want people to remember us as a group and forget which year we won each trophy. You could see how we bounced back from the Champions League defeat when we bounced back and won it this year. There is a long way to go in the League but with the tempo and way we have played takes a special mentality and we have shown that - but there is a long way to go but the group is focused on the next step ahead
It is special to be here. You have to be successful to be here and other teams from around the world have also earned their right to be here. All strong teams. It will be difficult but you want to get that winning habit and win trophies together as a group and to keep adding them. We are in good form and hopefully we can keep that momentum going. Obviously, it is fantastic to win a trophy. This is the trophy the club have not won so it would be nice to have that, so hopefully we can add that
[Prior to their loss in the Carabao Cup, Liverpool had gone 19 games without defeat in all competitions] Hopefully we can continue our good form as we have been in good form. If a chance to win a trophy is a distraction, then this is a pretty good distraction. We just want to keep being successful and keep winning trophies. You have to be successful to be at this tournament so hopefully we can go out there and win the two games. It is something this squad is very strong at. We are looking at that next game. The boys are always working towards the next game but it is all about recovering which is difficult in itself. The boys have done it very well so far and hopefully the boys can keep doing that but in terms of schedule, it is no different to what we would have had, had we not been here as we would have had another game at the weekend in the Premier League so nothing has changed
2019 12 26 Retrieve
[His Liverpool team-mate James Milner says Trent Alexander-Arnold just keeps getting better] Trent is getting better all the time. He is unbelievable and there is plenty more to come as we will be on him to keep improving
[The right-back nabbed a goal and two assists in his side’s 4-0 rout of the Foxes] I think it was important to start well, we knew they would be fired up. In the first half we weren’t as clinical as we could have been but it was a great performance and to get the number of goals was pleasing. [It was] a good, solid performance. It was a big penalty. We had had a few chances and they are always dangerous so it’s nice to put it in.
[Asked further about their significant lead, Milner refused to be drawn on his side’s major points advantage] It’s one of many successful nights so far this season. We are not even halfway. So much can change and happen. The strength of this team is we take it one game at a time
2019 12 29 Retrieve
[James Milner says Trent Alexander-Arnold’s mentality is absolutely spot on] There’s a long way to go and we don’t want him to become a big head, but he won’t because there are plenty of people around him in this dressing room that, if he does, will pop it straight away. For me, one of the most impressive things about him is his mentality. You can admire him ability wise, but his mentality is great. He’s got a great attitude. That’s so important. He will keep improving and, if he keeps doing what he’s doing, given how young he is, he’ll have people talking about him for a long, long time.
He can be very good. He’s pretty good now, isn’t he? You see the amount of games he’s played and occasions he’s played in - Champions League finals, big games, pushing-for-the-league-title games. There’s a lot more to come from him. He’s going to make mistakes and will have to bounce back from them. You get disappointments. The manager has taken him out of the team at times, but he always shows the right attitude. He knows it’s for his benefit or the benefit of the team. His mentality is absolutely spot on, and his ability is incredible. There’s a lot more to come from him, and he will keep on improving and be a massive player for Liverpool for many years to come.
2020 03 08 Retrieve
[Milner identified Klopp as the key driver behind Liverpool’s recent success] He is the leader of the ship and he has turned us into a fantastic team and he never lets us rest. We have to keep pushing and improving. If there is one day in training when it is not right you get a rocket and it is not good enough. But the boys are very good at that as well. The manager sets that tone and the boys are good at marshalling it. If someone misses a day in the gym or they are late for something or not pulling their weight they get pulled up on it. That is important as well but it starts with the manager
You don’t go through a season without not playing well. It happens to everyone. It’s the same in every sport. No sportsman can go a four-year cycle to the Olympics and be at the top. They try to peak. It’s the same with football. You are top level all the time. There is always going to be a spell and it is how you deal with it, while still getting results. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to get the results in the last few games. But we are trying our hardest to bounce back and get the performances we know we are capable of. Every team in the league is going to have a spell when things are not quite going their way but we are working hard. We are giving too many chances away and not scoring enough goals but we are still winning games and we are still at the top of the Premier League
2020 03 09 Retrieve
[James Milner says Liverpool seeking ‘another special night at Anfield’ against Atletico] I think obviously coming into that game off the back of a good result is pleasing, it gives us a good feeling. The crowd will be right with us, they were with us again, and it’ll be a special night - it always is, so it’s down to us to turn around a tough result. We know how good they are, we know how well organised they are but hopefully we can push them all the way and overturn that and have another special night at Anfield
I think obviously it’s an incredible place to play football, the fans and the stadium. You look at how amazing the teams have been through the years for Liverpool and teams for Shankly and things like that, to be mentioned in the same level as those guys and to be up there with the records is special for us and that’s what we want to keep doing. We want to keep creating history for this club, it’s got an amazing history anyway but we want to keep adding to that. The hunger is there, you can see it from the boys and we just want to keep winning trophies and breaking as many records as we can
It’s always going to happen. No team goes through a season without having a couple of performances which aren’t at the level. It happens, it’s a long season and you see how many games we’ve played and any sport you play, it’s impossible to be at your highest level all year, year in and year out. You try your best and it just doesn’t happen, and that’s when you need to find a way to win. We’ve done that but we need to get back to the level that we know we can perform at. But the boys are working hard, you can see that it’s not through a lack of effort and the two finishes were clinical from the lads up front. We could have closed it out as well but they had chances as well, so there’s plenty to look at on what we can improve on.
2020 05 01 Retrieve
[James Milner is proud to be following in the footsteps of the likes of Kenny Dalglish, Steve McManaman and Luis Suarez as Liverpool’s No.7 and is determined to help the club land more major silverware] I was desperate to get a trophy for this club. You walk into Melwood every day and you see the trophies the club has won every single day. Getting to the Champions League final the year before, going close in the Premier League, the Europa League final and the League Cup final, having those near misses. That obviously made it even more special when we got there, but it’s a massive thing playing for a club the size of Liverpool. When you see the history and every day you see the players who have played, the players who have pulled on the No.7 shirt before me. When you are playing, playing at Anfield and you get a taste of that atmosphere. You get to finals, but you are not quite getting over the line - to finally get over the line and contribute number six, which we know how massive that is for the club, how important it is and the relationship the club has with the European Cup.
It’s a similar thing that we had at Man City. It was so important to get off the mark and win that first trophy and it was massive for us as a group. It’s always important to win that first one and we managed to get the Super Cup and the World Championship this year and it’d be nice to add more. But it was big to get over the line and add that first one together as a team and that then gives you all the tools to go on and push on, and hopefully we can win more. We don’t want to be known as the team that won just that one trophy, we want to push on and see if we can win as many as we can
2020 05 02 Retrieve
[James Milner says Van Dijk is more of a Rolls Royce than Kompany] They are massive players. You always look at the spine of a successful team and it starts right through the middle with the leaders at the back and how important defending is. Vinny - unbelievable player. How he went about his business, he struggled with injuries but the amount of injuries you saw him play through as well which nobody would have ever known, was incredible. He would put his head on the line. An unbelievable leader, a great captain with so many great qualities on that side, and rightly so, one of the greatest defenders to play in the Premier League. Virgil is probably a bit different to that. Maybe a bit more of a Rolls Royce, if you like, and he doesn’t seem to make too many tackles. He gets in the right spot and moves the ball away. Maybe he’s got a few more diagonals in his locker than Vinny had, although Vinny did have that as well. And Vinny had the greatest ball strike, I suppose, when he lashed one into the top corner! So, he could strike a ball alright as well
2020 06 16 Retrieve
[James Milner believes Virgil van Dijk ranks alongside the best defenders ever to have played in the Premier League] He’s right up there. I’ve been very fortunate to have played with some amazing centre-halves. You look at Rio [Ferdinand], Jonathan Woodgate, Vinny Kompany, and Virg is right in there with all those guys. He reads the game so well, he’s quick, he’s strong, he’s good on the ball, he’s a good communicator and he’s deadly in the air. And his positioning is so good. You can see that after the game when you look at how far players have run. He’s run miles less than everyone else, even the other centre-halves, and you think ‘how is that possible?’ but it’s because he reads the game so well. He’s an incredible player for us, and a big part of what we do. The spine in the team is massive and he is obviously a rock in that defence.
Liverpool put the clip out recently. The ball has come over his shoulder, he’s got a forward sprinting to close him down, hunting him down into the corner and he’s just knocked it over his shoulder, first-time, into my path. It was one of those moments in a game where I nearly stopped and applauded before I controlled the ball myself! It was ridiculous defending, but that’s the sort of thing he does
Hopefully he’ll keep improving as well. But the players he has around him - Joe Gomez, Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren - I don’t think their impact on him can be lost either. Virgil gets a lot of credit and rightly so, but look at the rest of the back four and the goalkeeper, look at the screening of the midfield, and look at the other centre-halves alongside him. The competition is massive in the team, but really Virg is there and it’s about who will partner him.
I think any time you play a derby, whether it’s a behind-closed-doors friendly match at the training ground or a Premier League game, with or without fans, both clubs are desperate to win. We’re playing for the fans whether they’re there or not. We know how much it means to them. They’ve got to walk around the city and see each other regularly, so we need to give them those bragging rights. It’s straight into the deep end with a derby first up, but maybe that’s a good thing. There’s no time to ease yourself in, it’ll be flat out from the first minute and that’s what we’ve been preparing for. Hopefully we can start well and get back on the run we were on before we finished
The fans are part of everything we do. The support they give us is amazing. But as long as the fans know that they are with us and that we are playing for them, that’s what matters. They’re still a massive part of what we do. We just need to do this small period without them. They’ve had a long wait and we’ll be pushing as hard as we can to secure that league title
2020 06 19 Retrieve
[Reds vice-captain James Milner believes Minamino can be Liverpool’s secret weapon] Taki has looked fantastic coming back in. This period might have helped him settle in, feeling like he’s been at the club longer than he has, really. It’s given him that extra time to get used to things. It’s difficult coming in in the middle of a season, getting used to how a team plays. It’s hard to do that when you’re preparing for a game every three days. This period I’m sure will have helped him and hopefully he can have a positive impact
[Milner believes they have the depth to cope with the demands of the coming weeks] It’s an important time. Everyone is in the same boat, nobody is going to be at 100 per cent. You can train on your own as much as you want, but your legs are not going to be used to a 90-minute Premier League game because they haven’t done it for so long. There has been a change to the amount of substitutes, which will be massive and will give more players a chance. I’m sure also, unfortunately, that there will be injuries. That’s a given, because there always is. So we’re going to need everybody, right down to the young boys. We’ve got some fantastic young players coming through. We’ve seen bits and bobs of them, and maybe we’ll see some more before the end of the season. We’re going to need absolutely everybody. Any time you achieve anything, it’s a massive team effort.
2020 06 25 Retrieve
[Reds veteran James Milner stresses the title win was spurred on by the club falling short last season] It shows the character in the squad to get so close last time and to go again. We have proven we are fuelled by disappointment and learning. I am sure the hunger will stay and we want to keep being successful. It is absolutely massive, to get over the line is huge
2020 06 28 Retrieve
[Man City will raise their game so we have to keep pushing] It’s about getting that balance right between enjoying it and getting ready to go again. You see how difficult it is for any team to defend the title. City managed it last season, when they got 98 points, but they tried twice before and failed. Those two times I was there we were never at the races - and that was everybody. That’s something I’ve learned from. This team has proved we can react well and go again after a disappointment. We came back from losing the Champions League final and we’ve come back from finishing second with 97 points, but it’s a new challenge to go again when you’ve been successful. Can we deal with that? Can we keep showing that hunger and keep playing in the same way?
Being as good next year as we have been this year won’t be enough because City will raise their game and so will Manchester United and other clubs. All these teams are pushing for the top and when you’re right at the very top everyone wants to take it away from you. We are now there to be shot at - and we have to be big enough to deal with that. We have to keep pushing. I don’t think this team would ever go into autopilot. I don’t think we have those sort of characters or attitude but that’s the challenge now. It doesn’t mean we’re automatically going to win it again, we know how good Man City and other teams are. We know this will hurt Man City so they’ll come back firing - but it’s down to us to try and go again.
[Milner went on to insist that Liverpool are fully focused on finishing the 2019-20 campaign strongly with a view to setting a new points mark] It’s definite motivation. Not so much the record, I think it is just the responsibility of pulling on a Liverpool shirt and going out with that responsibility to win a game. That is what is expected of us and you are always pushing to be the best you can. And how many chances do you get to reach that amount of points, it is incredible. You wouldn’t want to look back and think ‘Oh, we won the title but the last seven games we were poor, we didn’t get at it’.
And obviously with not knowing how long we will get off once we complete the season, these next games are sort of preparation for going into next season as well. It’s so important that we keep getting up to speed and back up to that level, so we will be pushing as hard as we can to finish the season strongly. That’s why it’s so important to finish with as many points as we can but also take that stepping stone for next season.
2020 06 28b Retrieve
[Liverpool braced for Manchester City revival] You see how difficult it is for any team to defend the title. [Manchester] City managed it last season but they tried twice before and failed. The two times I was there in seasons after winning titles we were never at the races. That’s something I’ve learnt from. This Liverpool team has shown we can deal with disappointment. Can we now show that we can deal with success? Being as good next year as we’ve been this year wont be enough, City will raise their game and so will other clubs
2020 07 05 Retrieve
[James Milner exclusive: There from the start at Liverpool] To see one of the young lads throwing up on the side of the training field in one of his first training sessions, that sets the tone, you know what you’re in for. We had to adapt to that, there were a lot of injuries early on. People were saying, ‘You can’t do that!’ You could, you just had to get used to it. Straight away you saw the tempo and the intensity in that first game at Spurs
It was ridiculous really, it wasn’t like we had played at a slow tempo under Brendan [Rodgers]. That journey started then with the manager’s methods and how he wanted us to play. You saw it come in bit by bit. One week the quality would be there and the next week we would be miles off it. That was a process again; the consistency started to come in and, eventually, learning how to win ugly and become a more rounded team
All his training sessions are based around how we play. You’re reacting to the next situation, always being switched on. If you are doing a shooting drill there might be three balls coming in at once. You might be passing one and a millisecond later there’s another one coming at you to shoot. It’s a bit different to anything I’ve done before, it’s based around needing to be switched on at all times in a game. Defensively, as well, it’s not training man-for-man or two blocks of four, it is doing two or three jobs at once.
It was what the manager needed at the time. There’s always going to be positions you prefer but you do what’s needed for the team. I suppose at that point I could have turned around and said, ‘No I don’t want to do that, I want to leave’.
He came to ask me to do it in pre-season and my mindset was, ‘OK, how can I be the best I can be in that position?’ and I started to learn the role. A few of the boys were a bit surprised when we set up at pre-season training the next day and I was at left-back, but that was part of the fun
Yeah I think so, you can see how he is around the team, but it’s also wanting to be part of that. Do you want to walk away from Liverpool and a manager of his calibre and not be part of something? I did the job as best I could and the year after that I don’t know what was in his mind. Maybe he thought, ‘Left-back, that’s him done,’ so it was a challenge to force my way back into the reckoning in midfield and I managed to do that
There are times in a game where situations are different and you have to adapt to that, maybe take the sting out of the game if you’re ahead. Maybe put a tackle in to get the crowd up, to set the press and get the tempo up. I would never, ever go into a tackle to hurt somebody, that’s not something I would ever do, but you can go in and let them know you’re there. You can win the ball and be fair and put in a decent tackle, that’s still allowed, that’s part of the game.
It’s changed a bit since I first came through as a winger, when the first tackle was free. The ball would come into my feet and I’d get launched in the first few minutes and there would be nothing more than a quick chat. The game has changed but getting in a big tackle or putting a press on, they’re important moments in a game and there’s a few in the team who can do that.
It was great to be all together, that was special. Watching that game and getting over the line together with everything that has gone on. It’s taken a lot of effort, patience and mental strength. Coming back from the disappoint of the year before and everything you go through in a league season.
It’s always special and I knew how big it would be for the club when I first signed if we could win the league here. We know how long they’ve waited, the amazing support we’ve been given at every single game, whether it’s been around the world or at home. You can see what it means to everybody
You never know in football, what’s around the corner, but I just want to contribute and win as many trophies as I can for Liverpool and add to the great history here. I’m biased, but I think the Premier League will be a better place for Leeds in it, and it will be weird to play against them next season
It seems a long time ago since I pulled on that shirt, you look back at photos and see how big the shirts were back then. Plenty has changed since then, unfortunately I was part of the team that got relegated and they haven’t come back and recovered just yet. It would be great to see them back next season and their fans are incredible as well
There are opportunities outside football when you’ve finished, sometimes you look at coaching or management and think that would be good. Then you see managers being sacked after eight games and think, ‘Nah, that’s not for me.’
My thoughts change day by day, but I think it would be a shame to move out of football when I’ve been so fortunate to work with the managers and players that I have done. With the experience and knowledge I’ve gained from those amazing people, it would be a shame to leave the game and not give that back to people coming through