Interviews

The big interview: James Milner – “My dad banned me from wearing red – I was brought up to dislike Manchester United!”

James Milner interview
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On one day in 2010, you scored the winner for Villa against Birmingham, then won the PFA Young Player of the Year that evening. Not a bad day...?

Andy McGinn, Bromsgrove

Yeah, that was nice. I scored in the last 10 minutes of the derby – a pressure penalty, and Harty [Joe Hart] was in net, too. I’d taken so many penalties against him in England Under-21s training, so he knew me well. But I scored and he shouted a few expletives at me!

Then I went down to London and won the PFA award, which was really special – a massive honour. When you look at the names on the trophy before and after me, it’s nice to have won that. That was the same day my wife did the London Marathon, then wore heels to the awards. Great effort from her!

After signing for them in 2010, what are your memories of playing for Manchester City as they began their new era of winning trophies?

Stephen Spencer, via Facebook

Amazing times – I loved every minute of it. They are a brilliant club and it was special to go there and be part of the start of it, having not won anything for such a long time. To win two Premier League titles, an FA Cup, a League Cup and a Community Shield was fantastic; I haven’t got a bad word to say about my time there.

The only disappointing thing is some of the things afterwards – comments that some people believe I have made about the club. After I joined Liverpool, I was asked in an interview who were the better team, and I answered it just in the sense of a team – because we didn’t have players as good as City’s. So I said Liverpool were a better team, as in being together. After that, people would say, “You won two titles here – how can they be a better team?”

But many City supporters say some nice things to me as well. They were amazing with me when I played there, and it’s been great to see the club still doing really well. I would love them to finish second to Liverpool every single year while I’m here!

Were you disappointed not to play in the FA Cup final against Stoke, nor the famous title-clincher against QPR?

Ian Critchley, Gorton

Yes – you always want to play in every game, and at the time you don’t see the bigger picture. But over the whole season, winning a Premier League is so difficult. It’s a big effort from everyone to finally get over the line, and to play as many games as I did, assisting goals, scoring goals... you want to play in the endgame, but you have to look at the 38-game season

You’re not going to get too many better ways of winning the league than how we did it against QPR. I see it on television now and the hairs on the back of my neck still go up. I don’t think that will ever go away.

Just how mad was Mario Balotelli?

Stuart Brinscall, Hyde

He was an interesting character… the best way I can describe him is that he was like a teenager, wanting to be the centre of attention. I was there for the darts incident. At Carrington there was a leisure area upstairs with a dartboard and a window overlooking the gym, and as people were walking past the gym down below, he was firing darts at them! That’s up there with the most stupid things he did.

The most stupid was probably upsetting Micah Richards in training. Micah wanted to rip his head off! Micah’s a pretty strong man, and if he loses it, you need to be somewhere else. He was striding towards Mario and I dived in front of Micah to stop him and then hold him for long enough for a few other lads to jump in.

I never had a problem with Balotelli, though. Sometimes he wouldn’t track back, I’d give him a bit of a bollocking and he might have a snap back, but he would apologise afterwards. There was respect between us.

How did you first react to the ‘Boring James Milner’ Twitter account?

Alannah Maxwell, via Instagram

It was pre-season with City when that started, and one of the lads showed it to me. There was a Boring Gareth Barry account at the same time, so we felt it had to be one of the lads. There wasn’t anyone with enough banter, though, so I was also thinking that maybe it could be a few of the staff!

What prompted you to finally join social media yourself, after years of leaving it to the parody account?

Caroline Louise, via Facebook

I’ve never been bothered about the whole ‘boring’ thing in the slightest – I like it, because it probably means that people don’t know too much about me, so I’ve done a good job and given them as much as I want to give them.

Since I started playing, things have changed a lot, with more interviews and more exposure. Fans feel like they have the right to know every single thing about you, and it shouldn’t really be like that. Everyone has their own life – their own ups and downs going on away from the pitch – and people forget footballers are just people as well. But I thought it was maybe time for people to get to know me a bit more, and have a bit of banter.

Starting the account with the picture of me ironing was all my idea. It’s good fun, and now I can show things about myself here and there – most of them boring, probably, but maybe the odd bit of interesting stuff, too!

Is it true that your dad banned you from wearing red as a kid?

Freddy Jones, Wetherby

It's true, yes. Obviously Leeds fans are brought up to dislike Manchester United, as rivals, so red wasn’t allowed. I didn’t have any red shirts or anything, and the first time I ever wore it was probably for England. He did joke when I signed for Liverpool that it was the first time he’d be happy to see me regularly in red…

NEXT: “That’s like asking which one of these guys do you want to spend a night with your missus?!”