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Milner ready for World Cup pressure
Published : 14 May 2010 09:25:00
James Milner says he will not wilt under the pressure to perform at a World Cup as he prepares for his first taste of football's biggest stage. Milner has gone from being on the periphery of Fabio Capello's England squad 12 months ago to being regarded as a certainty to go to South Africa long before the Italian boss named his final 23-man squad. He has reaped the benefits of being converted into a central midfielder by Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill this season and has been in outstanding form. This was reflected in the 24-year-old - Villa's joint record signing at £12million - being chosen as the Professional Footballers Association's Young Player of the Year. But it is Milner's experience at youth and under-21 levels, where he is England's most capped player, that has also helped to give him the belief he can cope with a World Cup finals. Only last summer, Milner was part of the side which reached the semi-finals of the European Under-21 Championships under Stuart Pearce. Milner said: "I wouldn't be put off by the pressure of a World Cup. That is what the youth and under-21 tournaments are for. "They are pressure tournaments. Maybe there is not quite the pressure of a World Cup semi-final or final. "I've been involved in England youth set-ups against African nations and South American teams so that is a big plus from playing at that level because you come up against different nations and styles in the World Cup. "It's all about having the practice of being in a similar situation. The Premier League is the same. They are all pressure situations." Milner has proved himself to be the kind of individual who can blend into different squads and is an ideal team player - another crucial attribute for the summer. He said: "I think that is a massive part of tournament football and I've been involved in two under-21 tournaments and one with the under-17s. "That is the point of the England youth set-up, to give you that experience so, if you are lucky enough to make the step up, you are used to being away from home and things like that. "The manager looks at players who will do it on the field but who are also able to prepare mentally for the games, even though they might be a long way apart and you are away from home for a long time. Things like that all come into it." Milner caught the eye in the August friendly with Holland and his international career has blossomed since then. He said: "Last season, and the season before, there were a couple of squads I may have been in and, for one reason or another, I was injured. "There is a lot of competition and, if you get a chance, you have to make sure you are ready to take it and prove a point that you should be involved. "For that Holland game, I was ready to take the chance but you have to keep working well and prove that you should be in the squad. "In the battle for the World Cup place every minute has counted with the quality in and around the England squad. There has been a pool of players battling to be in and around the squad." Milner was a massive fan of Brazil when growing up and would dearly love to face them in South Africa. He said: "You want to play against the best teams and best players and as a kid I always dreamed of playing for England against Brazil. "After England, Brazil were always the team I wanted to watch in the World Cup. They have always been great to watch with a lot of quality players. "When you are kicking a ball growing up, it always seemed to be Brazil you were playing against for England. "Growing up Ronaldo was the one who stood out most. He scored some great goals, had great pace and great skill. Rivaldo was great as well - top, top players." Milner has been used predominantly as a substitute by Capello but England legend Sir Geoff Hurst believes he is ready to be part of the starting line-up. Milner said: "You always want to start games. You've got to prove you should be in the squad and then it is about battling for a place in the team. "Hopefully I'll get a chance and then you've got to go out and play as well as you can. Everyone dreams of playing in a World Cup."