Liverpool's unsung hero: James Milner

Sanjay Nair praises arguably Liverpool’s most undervalued player of the last two years: James Milner. 

It could be argued that the best way to test the true worth of a professional across any domain would be to assign them tasks away from their comfort zone and see how they fare. Even the best of them might find the going tough and quit early or mostly turn in average performances. However, Liverpool has been blessed with a player who not only gives it his all every week but keeps improving with every outing: James Milner.

Having burst onto the Premier League scene as a teenager, he became the youngest ever goalscorer in the Premier League goal-scorer a month later, just nine days before his 17th birthday, drawing immediate comparisons to Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney. His desire, confidence and more so his ability with both feet often saw Milner being switched between the left and right wings in midfield. This is where he established himself as the consummate professional, executing his duties with ease. He has indeed been one of the very few naturally gifted sportsmen who perhaps define the term ‘versatile.’

Those who knew Milner from an early age would not have been surprised with how well he reacted to the different demands from each of his teams or managers. Milner was described as a “first class” student at his school. He left with 11 GCSEs and an award for his performance in physical education. Milner also showed talent in cricket, sprinting and long-distance running and was the cross-country champion at his school for three consecutive years.

At Liverpool, Alberto Moreno’s injudicious tackles in and around the Liverpool area and general instability early in the season pushed Klopp to look at options available to him. Once the idea of a new player was cast aside, it was James Milner he decided to fall back on. It was not a position Milner was accustomed to being deployed in during any of his previous 14 years in the Premier League, but he has set about his task with trademark single-minded dedication and has used the abilities at his disposal to tremendous effect. Barring a couple of mishaps, which have not amounted to anything catastrophic, he has established himself in that position so much that a stop-gap arrangement soon became permanent. An additional bonus for the team is his conversion rate with penalties. And all this from a player who cost us absolutely NOTHING!

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Most recent performances of note have been the games against Stoke City and Manchester City. Despite falling behind, Liverpool rallied well and eventually ran out 4-1 winners against Stoke. Adam Lallana might have been the main catalyst behind this comeback in terms of goals scored, but one cannot discount the industry of the backroom engine that is Milner.

Along with Henderson, he put in a terrific shift at the back whilst also charging down the left flank time and again to support the attacking unit. Raheem Sterling who has seen a revival under Pep Guardiola and has formed a formidable partnership with De Bruyne tormenting many a defence this season. However, it came to nought at Anfield and he found the going tough as James Milner did not so much as give him a sniff at a decent cross this time around.

Despite a punishing schedule which forced Liverpool to play two games in less than 48 hours, Milner fought on gamely against Sunderland until fatigue finally caught up in the form of a calf strain. The supreme athlete that he is, Liverpool fans all around the world will be hoping that this is not serious and Milner does not encounter even a minor injury for the rest of the season.  His influence on the team, captaining the side in the absence of Henderson, his all-round skills and above all professionalism of the highest quality has made him indispensable in the current Liverpool side.

Here’s wishing a fantastic individual and a genuine role model for youngsters across any discipline of sport A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY from the Rousing the Kop team for yesterday.

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