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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What is Jurgen Klopp like to play for?

Dan Hudson, via Instagram

He’s a very good manager. You can see that by looking at what he’s done with this team; how we play together and work for each other. He’s got the fiery side but also the ‘Klopp hug’, as I think it’s known.

A few times, he has lost his head when we haven’t played well, but he’ll surprise you: there are times when things aren’t going badly and he still loses it, and times when you think he’s going to, but he doesn’t. He’s the judge of that and he normally gets it spot on. He loves the game and wants to win.

Did you enjoy your year at left-back? Personally I felt you did well!

Danny Chandler, via Facebook

No, I didn’t enjoy it, to be honest – but you do whatever’s asked of you for the team. The manager asked me to do it and I did it to the best of my ability. It’s not my best position, and hopefully I’ve shown that playing in midfield before and after, but if the manager asks you to play somewhere, you just do it. I told him that I didn’t particularly want to do it, but the team comes first.

I think the first time I had to play at left-back was at Manchester United in the Europa League – Alberto Moreno was injured and the manager gave me a choice: did I want to play at left-back or right-back? My answer was, “That’s like asking which one of these guys do you want to spend a night with your missus?!” His English wasn’t that good then, so I think it went over his head!

You’ve said that the only position you haven’t played is goalkeeper. Would you do it in an emergency?

Kyle Chester, Huyton

A million per cent, I’m there. It’s the only one to tick off; I’ve done every outfield position! I’d definitely put my hand up – you’ve got to be a little bit crazy, haven’t you? The only problem would be my height – other than that, I’d stick my head in where it hurts!

Do you think Loris Karius will bounce back after his mistakes in this year’s Champions League final?

louisgoodwin02, via Instagram

Everyone makes mistakes in football, and unfortunately as a goalkeeper it’s part of your life: if you make a mistake, it ends up in the net. It’s something he'll learn from. He’s a strong character… He will bounce back, and he’s shown that already in his career – he was at Man City and it didn’t work out, but he went away, worked really hard and now he’s playing for Liverpool, one of the biggest clubs in Europe. It shows what he’s all about and I’m sure he’ll do that once again.

To lose a Champions League final was tough. Getting that far and that close is not really something you will ever forget. People ask me, “Are you over it yet?” and I don’t think it ever does leave you, being that close to something that big and not achieving it.

After reaching the Champions League final, can this be Liverpool’s year to win the league?

Shaun Lord, Uttoxeter

Cup competitions are different to Premier League football, but over the last two seasons I think we’ve become more consistent. We’ve shown that we can beat all types of teams now – the teams at the top; the so-called lesser teams; the teams who come and park the bus.

The tools are there for us to do it – it’s just about doing it over 38 games. That’s why it’s so difficult, because you have to do it every single week. We’ve shown that we can do it, but talk is cheap – it’s all about going and doing it.

You famously like Ribena, but if Liverpool won the Premier League, would you push the boat out and have a Vimto or a sparkling water?

Thomas O’Dea, via Facebook

Maybe... I'd have to come up with a fizzy drink for that occasion if it happened!

Are you sad that you retired from England duty before the upturn in fortunes at the 2018 World Cup or had you become disillusioned?

Ben Frankland, via Instagram


  • 2009-16 England (61 caps, 1 goal)

I’m not sad about it – I’m delighted that the team did well. When I retired I said I didn’t want to just be a number to travel, standing in the way of young players who would benefit more. And look what’s happened since. To me, that justifies the decision I made when I moved aside; I hope that’s helped the team to achieve what they did in Russia.

For several years, I wasn’t playing and if someone else came into the squad, they went into the team and I stayed on the substitutes’ bench. In 2015/16 I had a very good season with Liverpool – we got to the Europa League final and I had some of the best assist stats in Europe at that point – but I didn’t play at Euro 2016.

I loved playing for England: I did it 46 times for the under-21s, which goes to show how much I’d never turn down a cap, as well as the 61 times I played for the senior team. But looking at the big picture, retiring was the right thing to do.

That Nivea advert you appeared in was a bit weird. What’s it like to be crushed by a dinosaur?

Garry Anderson, Skelmersdale

Yeah, interesting… I’m just happy that it wasn’t my car! 

Do you want to become a manager when you retire, or would you prefer being a pundit?

sw_cufc_1701, via Instagram

It’s difficult to know when you are still playing. There are times when I fancy being a manager, times when I fancy being a pundit and times when I fancy not being anywhere near football when I finish.

Managers don’t get much time at all these days, and it also takes such a long time to get your coaching badges – it takes a number of years and it’s a big commitment – that you have to be sure you want to do it before you go through that. I’m not sure at the moment.

I think it would be a shame not to use some of the experience I’ve built up over the 16 years that I’ve been playing. I hope I can use that now with the younger players here at Liverpool, helping them as much as possible.

This feature originally appeared in the September 2018 of FourFourTwo. Subscribe!

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