Model professional Milner will be Capello's dream as the Villian prepares to be an England hero

23 January 2009 09:37
Aston Villa's James Milner is on the verge of an England call-up Capello already admires the way he plays his football for an Aston Villa side very much in this season’s title race and hoping to progress to the fifth round of the FA Cup. Two feet, either flank, full of running. But the Italian will want to adopt him as his third son when he realises how at home Milner would be in the strict , ultra -professional regime he has created for the national team. Milner, 23, is almost too good to be true. Intelligent, tee total, totally focused and so appreciative of any help he has received he even thanks the many goalkeepers who, over the years, have stayed on after training for shooting practice.   More. Six more for the future, Fabio: Sportsmail's guide to England's other uncapped wonders Aston Villa set to unveil Heskey after agreeing£3.5m deal for England striker with Wigan Barry redemption: Gareth regains captaincy lost over Liverpool wrangle Doncaster v ASTON VILLA: Young, Laursen, Carew and Bouma to miss Cup trip ‘I’m a pretty single-minded individual,’ he says as he relaxes at Villa’s training ground. ‘If I make a decision I stick to it and football has always come first. 'Whether it’s doing weights or extra finishing work after training, I’m committed to getting the best out of myself. ‘It’s why I appreciate the work the coaches and the keepers put in. 'When I was a kid at Leeds I was lucky enough to work with some great keepers — Nigel Martyn, Paul Robinson, Scott Carson. Milner spent a period at Newcastle United, playing with the likes of Alan Shearer and Craig Bellamy 'Scottie was my room-mate when we lived at the academy.' It was when he lived at the academy, at 16, that he decided alcohol was something he would not even try until after he had retired as a professional footballer. ‘I couldn’t go drinking because the amount of publicity I got when I broke into the first team at 16 meant everyone knew how old I was,’ he says. ‘But it has never really appealed to me. It’s something I can do after I’ve finished playing. 'Right now I want to give myself the best possible chance to succeed. 'I want to give this my best shot. To try to play to the best of my ability. ‘I feel very lucky even to be here. 'Very lucky that my mum and dad took me to training three times a week at Leeds and lucky that I’ve made it when so many good players I grew up with, fantastic players, never came through the ranks. 'Eddie Gray’s son, Nick, was in my group and he was a superb player. Two very quick feet. But he had some terrible injury problems and that was pretty much that. 'I’m not sure what he’s doing now.’ Lucky is a word Milner often uses during this interview. He was lucky to have such a good upbringing. Milner (left) has represented England at U21 level - but is yet to make the step up to the senior side Lucky to have learned from so many great players. Lucky to have worked with Gray, Sir Bobby Robson and Martin O’Neill. ‘I’m lucky to have played at three fantastic football clubs alongside some brilliant players,’ he says. ‘Watching them every day, working with them every day. 'If you can’t improve when you’re working with some of the players I’ve met you’re going to struggle. ‘I feel like I’ve been able to take different bits from all of them. 'At Leeds I was able to work on my finishing with players like Robbie Fowler, Mark Viduka, Alan Smith, Harry Kewell and Robbie Keane. 'Nick Barmby was a great pro. The timing of his runs, getting into the box. 'Little things like that. 'Gareth Barry here. Unbelievable player. 'So confident on the ball.‘ 'At Newcastle working with Alan Shearer was amazing. I was 10 when I watched him score all those goals in Euro 96 and the next thing I know I’m playing and training with him. ‘He would tell me he just wanted the ball in the box. Then Craig Bellamy would drop off and tell me he wanted it at his feet.   More. Six more for the future, Fabio: Sportsmail's guide to England's other uncapped wonders Aston Villa set to unveil Heskey after agreeing£3.5m deal for England striker with Wigan Barry redemption: Gareth regains captaincy lost over Liverpool wrangle Doncaster v ASTON VILLA: Young, Laursen, Carew and Bouma to miss Cup trip 'I was only 18 and sometimes I wasn’t sure what to do because Bellers is a tough person to ignore.’ Milner was lucky to be blessed with an impressive combination of pace and endurance that makes him ideally suited to playing on the wing. At school he was a sprint champion as well as a middle distance and cross-country champion. ‘For two years I represented Leeds Schools in a European indoor event in Dortmund,’ he says. Former Leeds academy boss Eddie Gray had a major hand in nurturing Milner's talent ‘I ran in the sprint events and I also won the 1,000 metres. 'I guess it does give me that combination of speed and endurance. 'A good engine you could say. I normally cover about 13km in matches, which often puts me at the top here.’ He was also a talented cricketer, representing Yorkshire until he decided to move into Leeds United’s academy and play football full-time. ‘I was wicket keeper and opening bat,’ he says. ‘Where we lived, in Horsforth, was just across the road from the cricket club as well as five football pitches. 'And I was from a sporty family. My dad was a decent footballer as well as a good runner, and he told me when I was about 10 to practice as much on my left foot as my right. 'He said if you watch all the best players they can use either foot and it was great advice. ‘I wouldn’t say my left is quite as strong as my right but at the same time I would never think about checking back on to to my right foot if someone was there to be beaten on my left. 'It’s instinctive.’ Milner made his senior breakthrough at Leeds United Milner is something of a rarity in English football, the product of a very middle-class background. Dad Peter is a quantity surveyor, mum Lesley an estate agent. ‘I never wanted for a pair of boots,’ he says. ‘And we lived in a nice house in a nice area. But my parents pushed me hard, even at school. 'Because there were no guarantees I would make it, they made sure I had options and I left school with 11 GCSEs, most of them grade A.’ The more you hear, the more you know Capello is going to adore this lad when he selects him, it would seem safe to assume, for next month’s international friendly in Spain. ‘Obviously it was great to hear what he said,’ says Milner. ‘I’ve not spoken to him yet but his No 2 (Franco Baldini) came along to one of the Under 21 games and told me Mr Capello was aware of me, which was nice to know. ‘It’s now down to me to keep working hard, keep improving, and try to first force my way in and then stay there. 'There are so many steps to it because there are a lot of quality players around. Milner is excelling under the guidance of Villa boss Martin O'Neill 'But he’s shown, with Theo Walcott, that he’s not afraid to promote from the Under 21s. ‘At the same time, though, you take it with a pinch of salt. I never get ahead of myself. 'Never get too big for my boots. I remember the manager here telling me about a time when he went in to see Brian Clough. 'He fancied himself as a central midfielder and went to see Clough about it. 'Clough looked at him and said unless he wanted a higher number than the 11 that was already on his back he’d be better off keeping his mouth shut. 'It’s a useful lesson.’ And music to Capello’s ears.   More. Six more for the future, Fabio: Sportsmail's guide to England's other uncapped wonders Aston Villa set to unveil Heskey after agreeing£3.5m deal for England striker with Wigan Barry redemption: Gareth regains captaincy lost over Liverpool wrangle Doncaster v ASTON VILLA: Young, Laursen, Carew and Bouma to miss Cup trip  

Source: Daily_Mail