Terry Venables: James Milner the master of versatility

Milner was impressive once again, but it came as no surprise

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I was impressed again with James Milner’s versatility for England on Thursday night – he played in three positions  – though it was no surprise to me. I had Milner at Leeds United and his ability to play in different positions stood out, especially for such a young lad.

I remember giving James his debut for Leeds when he was just 16. But there was a home game against West Ham a few months later, when James had just turned 17, that stays in the memory.

We were struggling a bit at the time and we didn’t have any strikers.  So I put a big midfielder up front – Eirik Bakke – with James up with him, rather than just being a wide player. And he was terrific. We won 1-0.

That is the versatility that has made Milner such a success. He has always been a good lad and a ferocious hard worker. He wanted to be a player and you knew that he would be.


But he is a far better footballer than people give him credit for. He is two-footed, he can cross, shoot and pass with either foot. People are inclined to put him down, but it’s not just about being a willing player. What he is, is a footballer.