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Understanding English Footballers: Is James Milner the Key?

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.

Why James?

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.

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  1. Pete

    September 15, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    He’s not a winger for me and as long as he is played in that position he’s always going to look crap. He’s a better player than what people give him credit for, he just needs to play in the middle or on the right side of a 3 man midfield.

    I’m one of his worst critics but that’s really only because he plays on the right wing for England and it’s just not his position

  2. Evan

    September 15, 2012 at 9:14 am

    Milner is a brilliant player. The only problem is that Mancini refuses to play him centrally, where he is best.

    Just look up last year’s goal he scored against villa. The way he started and finished that goal was pure class.

    • SoccerLimey

      September 15, 2012 at 9:45 am

      Brilliant ? You’re kidding, right ?

  3. Carmello

    September 15, 2012 at 8:13 am

    This article reminded me that last night I had a dream I was James Milner playing for Tottenham and I scored a goal in Spurs first win under AVB. Hahahahaha thank you EPL Talk for helping me keep a dream journal haha.

  4. Jack

    September 14, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    gobbledegook in abundance. Ask him to show you you his medals. His display against the Cayman Island Red Socks was, in tandem with Silva, exactly why City bought him. It was 6 – 1 and could have been 10. As for England we have never been able to play International football, we just are not intelligent enough.

    • Guy

      September 14, 2012 at 7:09 pm

      I think there is plenty of talent, but it is going to take the perfect storm to bring it into alignment. So…..maybe it never happens. 🙁

  5. SoccerLimey

    September 14, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    Nice article and very well written but I differ markedly in my opinion.

    Milner, for me, represents all that English football lacks in the modern game. He’s energetic, loyal, committed, and an asset to any manager that needs someone to fill a spot. For me, it stops there. He is lacking in the fundamental skills needed to play international football. He lacks the ability to consistently beat an opponent 1-v-1, his passing is mediocre and his first touch is simply awful.

    I could wax on about him but I don’t want to dampen the spirit of the article. I think you frame “The English Player” perfectly and that is exactly why, and I have been advocating this now for two years since 2010, that we need to flush through our young players and weed out the veterans like Lampard, Milner, Barry, Terry, Ferdinand and maybe Johnson. You CAN win with youth but you have to start it early and tolerate the hiccups along the way.

    The public hanging of Cleverley following Ukraine, after singing his praises after Moldova, is typical of our attitude to young players who are learning their trade.. Our older players are gripped with fear of failure and for that reason we need new blood to move forward with.

    Milner, for me, doesn’t belong.

    • Guy

      September 14, 2012 at 7:06 pm

      Well done…..and you, too, Peter!

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