Why James Milner is so much more than a squad player for Liverpool.
Saturday’s 5-0 mauling of Napoli in Dublin gave us a vintage performance from our number seven. James Milner has looked exceptional in pre-season and Liverpool fans everywhere should be hoping that the nasty gash he suffered doesn’t rule him out for the West Ham game.
The battle scar he will have after his fifteen stitches, is quite fitting for the immensely popular veteran. Reds fans love a player who will run through a brick wall and play at the very edges of their physical capacity. Milner though offers so much more than work rate. His importance to Klopp’s side means he will play a crucial to the powder keg of this coming campaign.
Jack of all trades…
Milner’s early career saw him play in a multitude of positions and at varying levels in the Premier League. A highly talented youngster, he was snapped up by Newcastle, from Leeds as financial meltdown engulfed the Yorkshire club. Always a gifted footballer, he was perhaps the recipient of more praise for being the ideal pro, a stalwart to the English game of graft and fight.
Some dismissed him as he came through in an era of great midfielders. No doubt he was overshadowed by Lampard, Gerrard, Carrick et al. He was viewed as a good all-rounder, but nothing more. That was however until he blossomed at Villa Park and caught the eye of City.
Liverpool swooped to sign Milner for precisely nothing in 2015. Despite five years of excellent service at Manchester City, which had seem him twice become a league champion, he was allowed to go on a free, having had his contract run down.
To allow such a top player to leave without too much effort to keep him is strange enough. But allowing a rival club to snap up his very useful services is truly baffling.
Liverpool fans weren’t complaining though. We are now lapping up the quality of the Yorkshireman as the side tools up for the campaign ahead.
You could be forgiven for assuming that Milner would be now set for a winding down and a relegation to the status of squad player. He is thirty-two, not the quickest and has seen two additional first team midfielders signed ahead of him for massive money.
Given Klopp’s physically demanding high press, you might also assume that Milner no longer has the legs for it. You’d be wrong though.
He is a great asset to this side and no doubt we will seem him fit and ready to go for another season in the engine room of Klopp’s destructive, menacing press. His excellent fitness would see him a match for most in the squad and no doubt his manager will be all too aware of the importance this will play for the coming season.
More importantly than his graft, Milner is a top footballer as well. Able to pick an intelligent ball and spring a counter, he is also capable of keeping it neat and tidy when it suits us. Twenty-nine assists in three years at Anfield is a glowing testament to his quality and puts him right up there.
Klopp is known to favour giving the kids at his disposal a crack at the first team. He likes his youngsters exposed to his methods and learning from the senior pros. You only need to look at his decision to bond the academy and training ground at one location as evidence for this.
Herein is yet another reason why James Milner must be allowed to stay at Liverpool until he is no longer physically able to contribute.
There aren’t many better, great examples to youngsters out there. Milner’s professionalism and career success means the kids will sit up and take notice. Academy graduate Nathaniel Phillips spoke very highly of Milner recently in an interview with the national press. Milner could well stay on with this role as an extra facet to his Liverpool career. You need youngster to remain grounded and focused, with such a veteran around, he will be of unbelievable value in this role.
Milner’s presence in the side is proof that we are heading the right direction. You cannot be successful without his level of experience and for those who are anticipating his end as a first team presence with a role to play, they will be likely waiting for quite a while. If we are to challenge City’s status as champions this year then no doubt the Yorkshireman will be vital.