JAMES MILNER has always been known for his energetic and committed displays in midfield.
The one-time teenage winger has now become the elder statesman at Liverpool. But the 32-year-old has no plans to slow down.
He gave two excellent performances in the Champions League quarter-final ties with Manchester City, and was able to slot in a fine 68 minutes in the Merseyside derby on Premier League duty in between.
While the majority of the Liverpool squad flew off around the world during the recent international break, Milner was resting and preparing for what was to come.
The former Newcastle United man retired from England duty after Euro 2016, having won 61 caps and been involved in four tournaments. He has used those extra breaks during the season to his benefit.
He is closing in on 500 Premier League appearances and, thanks to a healthy lifestyle off the field and dedication to his profession, Milner could one day challenge the figures held by Gareth Barry and Ryan Giggs.
“We train hard at the club and fitness has always been a strength of mine,” he says.
“Obviously the decision with England was a tough one, but those weeks in the season where the manager looks after me and gives me time off, it does help.
“People seem to look at ages and think that when you get over 30, you’re coming to the end.
“I’d like to think I have a number of years left in me. I feel really good. That is down to the great work the staff at the club do in looking after us, and the facilities we have.
“Obviously eating the right food and doing the right things at the right time off the field helps.
“You see players like Giggs and Gareth and how they have looked after themselves. If you do that, you have a chance of playing a very long time.
“If I’m still mixing it and covering the ground for Liverpool – and this is one of the hardest places to play with the demands – I’m in a good place.”
Milner made his first appearance as a 16-year-old for Leeds back in 2002, and four clubs later, there are not many experiences that are new to him.
He’s played in league-title deciders, cup finals and big games at international level. But stepping into the semi-finals of the Champions League is an unknown.
Liverpool won’t fear taking on Roma for a place in the final in Kiev on May 26, and if anything, Milner will go about the job in hand with his usual minimum of fuss.
“I’m very lucky to have played in very big games,” he assesses.
“It’s hard to say which are bigger than others, but hopefully those experiences will help.
“The semi-finals of the Champions League are where you want to be. Where Liverpool have been several times before.
“You can see that we are improving all the time, but to beat a team like Manchester City shows how good we are.
“Every team that gets to the semi-final deserves to be there, and are a very, very good team. It’s going to be tough again.
“But winning over two legs against City should give us confidence and proves we can beat anyone.
“We can learn from the experience of those two games in particular – the ups and downs, playing well and then sitting back at times – and take that into the semi-final.”
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe