James Milner: Talentspotter

Record-breaking youngster James Milner talks to FourFourTwo in early 2005. At the time he was at Newcastle, having started at Leeds; he went on to play for Aston Villa, Manchester City and England... 

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Leeds, 04/01/86


As a boy I supported…
Leeds. They’re my hometown club and I’ve been watching them since I was six. I was at the academy from the age of 11 and when you’re about 14 you start ballboying. So to play for them was a dream come true.

Anything attacking. Creating things for other players, beating people, scoring goals. That’s what I enjoy, so that’s what I try to do. I don’t mind where I play, as long as it’s in an attacking position. When I was growing up I played all over: up front, right wing and last year I played on the left for Leeds. Hopefully being versatile will help me. If you can only play one position and you’ve got a world-class player in that position, you might struggle to break through. It’ll also make you a better all-round player.

Probably my defending, but I try my best to work hard and improve my tackling and things. I’ve worked on my left foot since I was very young – my dad used to drill it into me. If you look at all the truly world-class players, they’re all left-footed.

Zidane is one player I admire, Henry another. He’s playing unbelievably at the moment.

I think making my debuts for Leeds and then Newcastle. There’s nothing better. And making my under-21 debut. I was nervous. I’d represented England from under-16s right the way through, but U21 seemed like a big step up. It’s much more high-profile.

Definitely getting relegated with Leeds last season. That was a horrible thing to go through. I didn’t think I’d have to leave. I turned up for pre-season training hoping to discuss signing a new contract, but the club came to me and said they'd accepted an offer from Newcastle.

Toughest opponent
Probably Woody [Jonathan Woodgate] in training! Other than that, Ashley Cole. A lot of people talk about his attacking play but defensively he’s improved so much. Shaun Wright-Phillips is so quick and busy – great going forward but also works so hard defensively.

Best player played with
I’ve been lucky to play alongside some great players: Alan Shearer, Patrick Kluivert, Mark Viduka, Alan Smith, Harry Kewell. It’s very hard to single out one.

What advice would you give to an aspiring young footballer?
Listen to everything you’re told. If you can piece it all together it’ll stand you in good stead. And work hard on the pitch, even if you’re not having a good game. That’s all you can do.

Biggest influence
I’ve been lucky enough to have some great coaches, but obviously your mum and dad are with you all way, through good times and bad.

A bit of everything really. I’ve got an R 'n' B compilation in my CD player at the moment.

BMW X3. I used to have a Ford Focus so I’ve upgraded a bit.

TV programmes
Friends and The Office. I enjoy comedies. I like laughing, it's a laugh isn't it?

Golf, Playstation and I enjoy walking my dog. He’s a Canaan Hound, originally from Israel. He’s only six months old but he’s massive, so he takes me for a walk. His name’s Zizzi.

J-Lo or Beyonce?
Neither, I prefer my girlfriend.

Last holiday you went on
I went to Barbados with my girlfriend in the summer.  A great place to chill out and enjoy yourself.

Any tattoos?
No, and I’ve definitely got no plans to get any.

If you were an animal, what would you be?
Some sort of bird, I’d have thought. It would be pretty cool to able to just fly around and do what you want.

If I hadn’t been a footballer…
I’d hopefully be doing something to do with sport. Maybe coaching. I enjoy my golf but I don’t think I could get anywhere playing the way I do. My handicap’s 16, but hopefully it’ll come down.

Describe yourself in five words
Hard-working, confident, relaxed, a laugh!

Interview by Louis Massarella, in the January 2005 issue of FourFourTwo.