James Milner’s journey to becoming a three-time Premier League winner

45

When Liverpool lifted the Premier League trophy on 22 July 2020, it marked a hat-trick of Premier League title wins for veteran midfielder James Milner. It also marked 6,464 days since he made his senior debut as a Leeds United player.

In this article, we will chronicle Milner’s rise to the top of domestic football, including a league title double at Manchester City, and culminating in an incredible triumph as part of a dominant Anfield side under German manager Jurgen Klopp.

Early days

Born in the city, Milner rose through the junior ranks at Leeds and made his debut as a fresh-faced 16-year-old. He made history when he became the youngest player to score in the Premier League, although this record would be broken by Everton’s James Vaughan three years later.

Milner made an instant impact at Elland Road and he was rewarded with a five-year contract during the latter stages of the 2002/03 season. But tough times would follow for Milner’s home-town club and the promising youngster was forced to move in order to retain his top-flight status, after Leeds were relegated and plunged into administration.

The maturing play-maker would head to the north-east to link up with Newcastle, where he initially found a home on the right of the midfield. This helped provide an early indication of the versatility that would help Milner enjoy such a fantastic career.

New opportunities

A year into his spell with Newcastle, Milner would be handed the opportunity of regular football with a loan spell at Aston Villa. It would be the move to the West Midlands that would see the England under-21 international truly blossom into becoming an elite Premier League player.

Following a change of manager at St James’ Park, Milner returned to his parent club, with Villa seemingly unable to match Newcastle’s valuation. He would play a prominent role in his second spell with the club, but despite enjoying a good relationship with Sam Allardyce, Milner would hand in a transfer request and push through a permanent move to the Villains in 2008.

Milner would go on to make more than 100 senior appearances for his new club, across loan and permanent spells, doing enough to earn a call-up to the senior England squad. His displays would not go unnoticed and when big-spending Manchester City met Villa’s valuation in 2010, the midfield star would be on the move again.

Top of the league

Milner had won the Inter-Toto Cup with Newcastle and was a League Cup runner-up with Aston Villa, but the move to City offered a chance to challenge for major honours. He wouldn’t have to wait long for his first league title, playing a key role as City swept all before them in 2011/12.

He’d repeat the feat two seasons later, with FA Cup and League Cup winners’ medals also coming his way, to add to the PFA Young Player of the Year award bestowed upon him in 2010. Milner would make just under 150 appearances for City before another elite club came calling.

Veteran play-maker

The now experienced organiser would make the move to Anfield in 2015 and retired from international duty a year into his spell with Liverpool. His new objective was to help the Reds to their first league title since before the start of the Premier League.

And after winning the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup in 2019, Milner would help his new club finally overcome their biggest hurdle. It marked another fine accolade in a career that recently entered into its 19th season, with Liverpool heavily fancied to defend their title in the football betting markets at 2/1.

Rated by his team-mates and coaches as a manager in waiting, it will be fascinating to see what steps Milner takes when he finally does decide to hang up his boots. But until then, there’s plenty of football still to be played!