Today’s Player of the Day is Manchester City and England midfielder James Milner. Having burst on to the scene as a 16 year old for Leeds United in 2002, becoming the youngest player to score in the Premier League, Milner has since gone on win the FA Cup and Premier League with Manchester City as well as becoming a regular within the England national team.
Milner is regarded as being a tenacious footballer. As a result, his main role on the team is as a wide midfielder who creates scoring opportunities, as well as taking the ball past defenders. He could be deemed a traditional English winger. While Milner does not score many goals, he does have a good record at providing assists. After his move to Newcastle, he began playing more as a winger. He has been described as "comfortable on either wing". He has also been used occasionally as a central midfielder and as an emergency right-back, generally during an injury crisis.
Milner's debut for Leeds United came on 10 November 2002, in a game against West Ham United, when he came on as a substitute for Jason Wilcox for the last six minutes. The appearance made him the second youngest player ever to play in the Premier League, at the age of 16 years and 309 days. On Boxing Day of that year, he became at 16 years and 356 days the youngest player to score in the Premier League, with a goal in a 2–1 win against Sunderland. His record has since been broken by James Vaughan of Everton.
Although Milner was not happy to be leaving the club he had supported as a child, he wished to do what was "in the club's best interest" and in July 2004, he agreed a five-year deal with Newcastle.
Milner made his first appearance for Newcastle United during their pre-season tour of Asia, scoring his first goal for the club in a 1–1 draw against Kitchee, in Hong Kong. During this tour, he took the opportunity to observe how Newcastle striker Alan Shearer dealt with attention from fans and the media. He said that his association with people like Shearer gave him a better idea of how to deal with the media.
Milner's first Premier League game for Newcastle came against Middlesbrough on 18 August 2004, in which he played on the extreme right of the field as a winger, despite having featured regularly on the left for Leeds.
However, the situation changed for Milner after Newcastle manager Bobby Robson, whom Milner considered his mentor, was sacked and replaced by Graeme Souness. Under Souness, he started 13 league games, but did not play his first full Premier League game for Newcastle until April 2005. By the end of the season, he had made 41 appearances in all competitions and scored once. Souness did not make Milner a regular in the Newcastle side and controversially remarked that the club would not win "with a team of James Milners".
At the start of the 2005–06 season, Milner scored in Newcastle's 3–1 away win against FK ZTS Dubnica in the Intertoto Cup, and also set up Shearer for the team's third goal. His good run of form in this competition continued when he scored in the next round against Deportivo La Coruña. Despite these goals, a clause in Newcastle's purchase of Nolberto Solano from Aston Villa resulted in Milner being loaned to Villa for the rest of the season. Villa manager David O'Leary, who had managed Milner at Leeds, was happy to acquire Milner in this deal, saying that he believed Villa got the better of the deal and that he hoped to improve him as a player.
Milner made his Villa debut on 12 September 2005 in a Premiership match against West Ham. Five days later, he scored his first goal for the club in a 1–1 draw against Tottenham Hotspur. Milner signed for Aston Villa on 29 August 2008 for a fee of £12 million, and signed a four-year contract with the club.
Milner's first Premier League goal in his second spell at Villa came on 17 January 2009 in a match against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. Milner headed in a cross from Villa midfielder Ashley Young to level the scores at 1–1, Villa went on to win the match 2–1. On 7 February 2009, Milner was named to the England full team squad for the first time, after a run at club level that had impressed England manager Fabio Capello. On 19 May 2010, Mancheter City made a £20 million offer for Milner which was rejected. On 22 July 2010, Villa manager Martin O'Neill said that Milner had shown a desire to leave Villa for City, but would only be sold at Villa's valuation. On 14 August despite being on the verge of a move to Manchester City, Milner played in Villa's first game of the season against West Ham United, scoring Villa's third goal. Milner was given a standing ovation when he was substituted near the end of the game.
On 17 August 2010 it was reported that Aston Villa had agreed a deal with Manchester City to sell Milner subject to a medical. The deal was reported to be worth around £24 million, including a player exchange of Stephen Ireland, valued at £8 million. Milner made his debut for City on 23 August 2010 in a 3–0 win against Liverpool, where he set up the first goal for former Villa teammate Gareth Barry.
Over the course of the 2011–12 season Milner made 26 Premier League appearances as Manchester City won the league title for the first time in 44 years.
In August 2009, Milner made his debut for the full England team, when he came on as a substitute in a friendly match against the Netherlands for the final 23 minutes. After outrunning defender John Heitinga, he provided a low cross into the six yard box, from which striker Jermain Defoe scored from close range to make the score 2–2. He would also provide another high cross for Defoe later in the match, which he headed over the bar. The match ended in a 2–2 draw. He played twice more for England the following month against Slovenia in another friendly and made his competitive debut four days later in a World Cup qualifier against Croatia, where he played the final nine minutes. England won the latter match 5–1 to secure qualification for the 2010 World Cup. On 2 June 2010, Milner was named in the final 23 man squad for the World Cup finals in South Africa. He was selected in the starting eleven for England's first match of the tournament against the USA, however he was substituted after 30 minutes. In England's third match against Slovenia, he setup the only goal of the match with a cross for Jermain Defoe. He captained England for the first time for the final 10 minutes of the match in a 1–2 loss against France on 17 November 2010, when both Rio Ferdinand and Steven Gerrard had been substituted.
Milner played in six matches during qualifying for Euro 2012, and was named in Roy Hodgson's 23-man squad for the tournament. Milner started Hodgson's first match in charge, a 1–0 friendly win against Norway.
On 7th September 2012, Milner scored his first international goal in a 5-0 win away to Moldova during 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying.Become a fan of Milner on Facebook by liking his Official PFA page: http://www.facebook.com/JamesMilnerFootball