James Milner is a player who I have admired and been confused by in equal measures for some time now. How could he leave Aston Villa where he was highly regarded, played brilliantly and led the team, and then go to Manchester City to be a sub? How could he often play with such direction, aggression and freedom for England, particularly against Ukraine at Wembley, but play like he was tied to the floor in the Euros?
And then it all started to make sense…
Maybe James Milner isn’t just a footballer. Maybe he is the embodiment of English football and all English footballers. A living, breathing, dribbling analogy. A footballing martyr. He has played for our sins and we all want to see him on the end of a cross. He was even born around Christmas time.
Maybe he has the answers? If we can decipher his actions we might see the way and finally understand them all.
He, like the England team, plays with great freedom and flair (within reason) when the pressure is off. He expresses himself and we see his true colours, a player with no shortage of skill and determination. A genuine talent. But when the spotlight is on and the heat is turned up he along with the rest of our three-lioned ‘warriors’ run around like cats on a hot tin roof.
He was brilliant at Aston Villa. With him in their side they almost had a second coming of their glory days. He was a leader of men adored by the masses, a humble and quiet man whose play was sometimes miraculous. But it wasn’t enough for him and he followed a star (not Gareth Barry) to a place where for all England internationals, except maybe Joe Hart, the grass is never greener. Manchester City. A place where he is richly gifted by a Middle Eastern king (though probably doesn’t get paid in Myrrh) but regularly sits on the bench.
Why James, why?
Hang on I see it now. He is testing our faith.
He, like all of the good English players and in fact the whole England team, is showing us what it means to make sacrifices. Having a God-given talent but once it is discovered not letting it blind and embarrass others. Leading us almost all the way to the promised land of an international trophy but ultimately keeping us from temptation by uselessly wandering in the wilderness of a quarter-final exit on penalties. Profound sacrifices and lessons for us all.
Ok James, I’ll keep my faith. I am not ready to wash my hands of you or the rest of them yet. We must wait. We will be rewarded.
We will find out the truth eventually I’m sure. When he retires he’ll put out the obligatory ghostwritten autobiographical book and that will tell us all. I’m looking forward to reading about his life and learning from him. Maybe we’ll all see the light and finally understand them. Maybe, if we can wait, King James’ good book will have some revelations for us all.
Until then us mere mortals will just have to hope they can play better against San Marino.