‘Boring’ James Milner can be a difference-maker for England at World Cup

Manchester City's James Milner may not elicit the oohs and ahhs of some of his younger England counterparts, but he may play a more important role in the side's success in Brazil.

England midfielder James Milner addresses a news conference at the team's hotel in Miami on Monday as they prepare for the 2014 World Cup. Wolfgang Rattay / Reuters / June 2, 2014
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In an England squad with several exciting young players James Milner likely won’t set pulses racing, but the versatile Manchester City midfielder could play a vital role in Roy Hodgson’s plans in Brazil.

The 28-year-old Milner has been part of the England set-up since making his debut for the Under-16 team 13 years ago.

With Hodgson giving opportunities to some players with barely more than a season of Premier League football under their belts, that experience could be invaluable.

His ability to offer defensive cover in midfield as well as provide width or support for the strikers provides Hodgson with useful tactical options, but he remains a player who many fans find lacking in sparkle.

“The opinion of the manager and my teammates is really the only one that matters to me,” he told reporters on Monday before rejecting the notion that he is little more than a steady option.

“You can look at the number of goals I’ve created in the Premier League in my career and see where that puts me. I’m sure I’d be quite high up in that.

“If a footballer can do that, create goals but also do a job for the team defensively, is that a bad thing? People say I’m a containing player. Maybe if I was lazy they wouldn’t think that. If I kept more energy to go forward, what would the perception be then? Would I be lazy and shouldn’t be playing because of that?” he said.

If that response suggests Milner is somewhat irked by his public image that would be slightly misleading.

A twitter account, with nearly a quarter of a million followers, titled ‘Boring James Milner,’ mocks the player by posting tediously banal observations about shopping and everyday life but he takes the parody in good spirit.

“It’s good fun. I’ve read a few of them and some of them are very funny. My mates don’t mention it, no. I’d like the James Milner Foundation to have as many followers as that,” he said, before joking about his attempts to hunt down the culprit – possibly among the staff at Manchester City.

Milner may not be boring at all, indeed he was thoughtful and engaging in his conversation with reporters on Monday, but he certainly is a very different character from some of the England midfielders of the past.

For starters he has never touched a drop of alcohol – rejecting the boozy culture that once typified English footballers.

“It’s not like I’m against alcohol. It’s just a decision I made at the start of my career and, it is probably a case of, if you’ve never had it, you don’t miss it,” he said.

Not surprisingly for someone willing to only countenance a drink with his team-mates if England were to win the World Cup – “I might” he said when questioned on that scenario – Milner isn’t worried too much about the perception of him and nor is he concerned that his versatility might work against him when it comes to team selection.

“I only do the job the manager wants me to do to the best of my ability and fulfill the role that has been asked of me,” he said. “The versatility tag can be a blessing or a bad thing.

“Sometimes it works for you, sometimes not. You can look at every game, some where I’ve been a defensive player and others where I’ve had an impact.

“I contribute in many different ways to the team. I’ve played a hell of a lot of games in my career, and you can stake any argument on the stats.”

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