James Milner – five years on

The Villans face the reigning Premier League champions on Saturday. In the summers of 2009 and 2010, Manchester City paid big money to take away key components of our midfield. First, former captain Gareth Barry departed for a reported £12 million, followed by 2009-10 player of the season James Milner. Massive holes were left in the Villa squad. City paid Villa plenty of money but, in truth, five years later, our midfield has only just recovered from those losses.

Milner will be facing Villa at the weekend for what will potentially be the last time in a Manchester City jersey. The England international is out of contract in the summer and has apparently finally become frustrated at being a bit-part player. The former Leeds man has probably had his best ever season for the Citizens. He’s started more games than in previous seasons and has his best goal return since he joined. The years before have apparently grated on Milner and, at twenty-nine, he could be moving on, with Liverpool strongly linked to him.

Since the day he left, Villa fans have dreamed of Milner’s return. It’s been pie in the sky. A third spell at Villa Park is unrealistic, even on a Bosman, unfortunately. Tim Sherwood has proven to be something of a magician since his arrival at B6; getting James Milner back would make him akin to David Copperfield.

Milner has always interested me and I have followed his career closely. I haven’t forgiven him for leaving Villa Park. I hate any good player leaving us. On Gareth Barry’s returns to Villa Park he has been booed and jeered whilst Milner always gets a decent reception from Villa fans. Why? Barry gave most of his career to the club and left to try something new, win trophies and probably, if he’s honest, to earn some extra money. Milner did the same but he only gave two full seasons as a permanent Villa player. Their differing receptions have always baffled me.

Back in 2009-2010 our team was built around James Milner. Twelve goals in forty-nine appearances in midfield made him our Gerrard or Lampard at the time. He had seemingly found a settled position in the centre of the park, was loved by the fans and had broken into the England squad. I felt he owed us more but at the first sniff of an offer from Manchester City he wanted out. I wonder if he has regrets? Probably not but I’d like to think he does.

At Villa he was the main man whereas at City he has been nothing but a utility or squad player. Good performances haven’t always been rewarded with a consistent run in the team and he has become a player who is seen as a steady Eddie who can do a job when needed. He’s so much more than that – a fantastic footballer with bags of energy and full of commitment. I would certainly want James Milner in the trenches with me.

The Yorkshire man has won trophies, played in the Champions League and played with the likes of Aguero, Yaya Toure and David Silva but too often he has just backed these players up. As an elite footballer, would you not rather play every week for a big club than sit on the bench for a cash rich side that is playing in the Champions League? I know I’d rather be the main man. Maybe Milner believed in himself and thought he could be a big player at City. There is nothing wrong with that attitude.

However, after five seasons he has apparently had enough. He has plenty of years left ahead of him as a top level footballer but his best years have been wasted, in my opinion. When James Milner looks back, he will have medals to show, he will have the memories of playing for and against some world class footballers but he will probably always have that feeling that he did not play enough in his career.

Milner may well line up against us Saturday in the starting XI but my lasting memory of him since he left Villa will be watching Manchester City beat us at Villa Park while he ran up and down the touchline, waiting to come on as a substitute. Whether he stays at City or moves on to pastures new I can’t believe that he won’t looks back on his career without frustration, especially as he is a footballer who I think genuinely loves the game.

Scott Sinclair will not be able to line up for us on Saturday against his parent club and he has admitted that moving to Manchester was a mistake. He missed out on two years of football in what is a short career,. To a lesser extent, James Milner too has missed out for the last five years.



1 comment

  1. It will be interesting to see where Milner ends up next season, but he was a loan target for Villa last January, but that could only have happened if we had signed Sinclair on a full contract .
    Contrary to the above views Milner was reluctant to leave Villa and has since regreted leaving, and it was he who advised his mate Sinclair to join us. However, money does talk but for those such as Milner playing the game of footie is more important, and he is the sort of person who commits to the team he is playing for. So if he plays tomorrow we can expect him to try and beat us. We could not afford him last January, but as a free agent in the summer he can choose what ever club he wants to play for & name his own signing on fee. So the question might be do we still want him back now that Sherwood is the manager ?

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