Saturday, June 25, 2022

Milner is enjoying Liverpool’s success and has more in mind

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James Milner plays the long game. Actually in more ways than one, having made his Premier League debut aged 16 and still practicing his trade there two decades later. He faced David Seaman in the top flight this season and the former England goalkeeper turns 59 this year. He competed alongside Lucas Radebe in the FA Cup and the South African is now 53, while Milner became an FA Cup winner again last weekend.

When he swapped Manchester City for Liverpool in 2015, he left a club that had won the championship a year earlier for one that had not claimed that accolade for a quarter of a century. A few weeks into his Anfield career, the manager who signed him, Brendan Rodgers, was sacked while Liverpool were 10th.

Some six and a half years later, Milner finds himself in a third tight title race between City and Liverpool. the first in blue, the other two in red. He had intended to help restore Liverpool to its past glory; however, do four times as much, and you would outperform even anything that has gone before. His was a decidedly unglamorous part of her rise. His faith was confirmed.

“That was the hope, part of the ride,” he said. “When I went to City they hadn’t won anything in a long time and it was great to be a part of that, the start of their success, winning leagues and cups. Liverpool are an incredible club with an incredible history, but they haven’t been that successful [in the recent past]He hadn’t won the Premier League, which was confusing. That was the goal and if we manage to win a Premier League here, that would be something special. It’s a process and the process has been incredible.”

Liverpool didn’t just win one Premier League. You completed the sentence: you’ve won the Champions League, European Super Cup, Club World Cup, League Cup and now the FA Cup. Liverpool’s oldest player was already a winner in the oldest competition when he didn’t come on as a substitute in 2011. But his clean win came at 36. The precocious Trent Alexander-Arnold was emulating him at just 23.

“I said to Trent, ‘Your closet is pretty full, but don’t get bored,'” Milner added. “He’s an incredible player but he’s lucky he got into such a good team. He deserves it because he’s such a good player but you never know when things are going to change so you have to enjoy it while it’s here.”

Milner has always been grounded, but he also has reasons to know not to take anything for granted. He had played more than 350 games in his career before getting his hands on silverware for the first time. He is out of contract in the summer and as much as Jurgen Klopp wants to keep him, nothing is certain.

It bodes well, at least, that his powers hardly diminish. With a rotation required after 120 minutes at Wembley, he is likely to start at Southampton on Tuesday. He was named man of the match the last time he started a game at Newcastle. He exerted influence as a substitute against Chelsea, crossing when Andy Robertson hit the post, catching to release the overlapping Alexander-Arnold and characteristically matter-of-factly converting Liverpool’s first penalty in a shoot-out.

And yet, when Kostas Tsimikas scored the winning penalty, Milner wasn’t looking. Not because he couldn’t, but because he didn’t want to. He had turned to the other end. “I wanted to see the reaction of our fans,” he explained. “I had faith in Kostas, I know he has a wand from a left foot. Of course you’re nervous because you know it could probably be over, but how often do you play at Wembley and experience that? It was wonderful. You see how everyone is experiencing what you are feeling; Relief, joy, everything.”

Milner tried to reabsorb it at Wembley. “It’s a special group of players and a special group of people to share those things with in the dressing room after the game. I went to the dressing room afterwards and all the guys are right on the phone. I thought, ‘We just won the FA Cup!’ You have to process 40-50 messages; It’s great to see the families, the kids with the medals around their necks. It is something very special.”

He is known to be a teetotaler and joked that he could celebrate Liverpool’s 2018 Champions League semi-final win over Roma with a Ribena. This time, he said his drink of choice was a Coke — “Full-Fat because Diet Coke’s worse for you,” he reasoned — before walking away. “With three games left, it’s worth going on if you’re on one foot,” he argued. Liverpool may be able to do without Mohamed Salah and Fabinho, but Liverpool have a can-do attitude. “If you go back to Barcelona, ​​that famous night [in 2019], look at the players who were missing back then. That shows a great mentality in the squad,” he said.

It was necessary against Chelsea. It will be again. “You’re very lucky to play in a final, you’re lucky to even be a footballer, play in the final and win 10 medals,” he said. “If you had said that at the beginning of my career, I would have taken it.” But 10 could become 12 on consecutive weekends. Everyone seems to mean more. “Yeah, it does because you don’t know how long is left, do you?” he asked. His career has long since gone into overtime, but Milner has won more in the last three years than the previous 17. There may be more to come.

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