Milner happy to play defensive midfield role

James Milner is ready to slot into the holding midfield role normally occupied by his former Aston Villa team-mate Gareth Barry for the World Cup if asked to by England coach Fabio Capello.

Milner admits his strengths are as an attacking player as demonstrated during an excellent season for Villa which culminated in him being chosen as the PFA Young Player Of The Year.

But Barry's ankle problem and the non-selection of Owen Hargreaves has left Capello with a possible void to fill in South Africa.

And the versatile Milner is ready to answer the call should it come from the Italian.

He has already been converted successfully by Villa boss Martin O'Neill from a wide player into a central midfielder during the past season.

Milner said: "Could I fill the Barry role for England if he is not fit? That is down to the manager to decide. All I can concentrate on is doing as well as I can in training and in these two games (with Japan and Mexico).

"Forcing your way into the World Cup squad first of all, is all I am concentrating on and then everything else takes care of itself.

"But if I were picked there, it's another football match. You've played there for your club and it is no different playing for your country.

"Could a holding role come naturally? I will play anywhere I am asked to play and do it to the best of my ability. My attributes are probably more suited to going forward and creating things.

"But, wherever I am asked to play, I'll do it to the best of my ability and try and adapt to the role and learn the role as best as possible."

It is that willingness to adapt which has impressed Capello who even played Milner at left-back for a spell during the World Cup qualifier with Belarus at Wembley last autumn.

Milner has made massive strides this season as a player and it is no surprise Manchester City have launched a £20million bid to buy him which was instantly rejected by Villa.

Milner said: "I feel I have progressed this season I think you like to think you improve every season. That's the aim.

"It's been a bit of a different season with moving inside and I've enjoyed it immensely and hope I've improved as a player by moving in there and still learning the role.

"I played it a lot when I was younger but I am still learning it.

"I think you are still learning whether you are 24 or 31 especially when you are playing with good players, which I am lucky enough to be doing at club level and with country."

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