Happy Birthday James Milner

04 Jan 2020 05:25 pm, by YorkshireSquare

Today we wish a happy 34th birthday to James Milner. One of the few players many Leeds fans would be happy to see back at Elland Road. Miner notched up over 50 appearances for Leeds and was their youngest goal scorer but certainly has unfinished business with his hometown club. It would be great to see him back at Leeds one day but having signed a new contract for Liverpool this season the dreams of him signing this summer for our return to the Premier League have been dashed.

Born in Wortley and raised in Horsforth, Milner took as much interest in watching football as he did playing it. He supported Leeds United from an early age. Watching them win the FA Youth Cup in 1993. He and his parents were season ticket holders for Leeds United and Milner became a ball boy at Elland Road. When he was ten years old, he joined the Leeds United Academy after being spotted by a scout while playing for Westbrook Juniors. Milner aspired to come through the academy and play for the first team. He was taken on as a trainee after leaving school. He continued to improve his skills in the youth team, and played for England at Schoolboy levels. He also helped the England Under-Seventeen team win the 2002 Nationwide summer tournament against Italy, Czech Republic and Brazil, scoring against Brazil.

Milner's debut for Leeds United came on 10th November 2002, in a League game at West Ham United, when he came on as a substitute for Jason Wilcox for the last six minutes. The appearance made him the second youngest player, behind Coventry City's Gary McSheffrey who was sixteen years and one hundred and ninety-eight days old, ever to play in the Premier League, at the age of sixteen years and three hundred and nine days. He was also the second youngest player to represent Leeds United, behind the legendary Peter Lorimer. On Boxing Day of that year, he became the youngest player to score in the Premier League, with a goal in a 2-1 win against Sunderland. In a match against Chelsea a month later Milner scored again, using his exquisite first touch to avoid a tackle from Chelsea defender Marcel Desailly and delivered a shot that curled into the goal from eighteen yards.

Milner continued to develop on the International scene representing England at Under-Twenty level at the 2003 World Youth Championship. Soon after this, Under-Twenty-one Manager Peter Taylor called him up to the England Under-Twenty-one team and Milner made his debut against Sweden on 30th March 2004. However, Leeds United's fortunes were different as they struggled in the League. Several first-team players were sold and eventual relegation to the Championship led to speculation over Milner's future at the club. Leeds insisted that he would not be sold and the chairman of the club at the time, Gerald Krasner, even referred to him as "the future of Leeds". Nonetheless, financial problems eventually forced Leeds to sell him to Newcastle United for £5 million, Milner having rejected an offer from Tottenham as they were based too far from his family home, where he still lived.

Milner was not happy to be leaving the club he had supported as a child, he wished to do what was "in the club's best interest" and in July 2004, he agreed a five-year deal with Newcastle. As Leeds United dwindled in the Championship and League One Milner would go on to have a successful career in the Premiership. After 94 appearances and an Intertoto Cup win for Newcastle United he moved to Aston Villa racking up 100 appearances and a League Cup runners-up medal. His big money move came in 2010 when he moved to Manchester City for £26 million. With City flying high Milner won two Premiership titles, an FA Cup, a League Cup and a Community Shield before a free transfer to Liverpool in 2015.

At 29 and in the prime of his career Milner had turned down a lucrative new contract at Manchester City and taken a £15,000 a week pay cut to join Liverpool. He had grown frustrated at City due to the lack of playing opportunities, the lad just wanted to play football. Milner was awarded the vice captaincy shortly after joining and had helped lead Liverpool to Champions League victory last season as well as UEFA Super Cup victory this season. Milner was also capped for England a total of 61 times before announcing his international retirement on 5th August 2016.