Manchester City foreign legion good for our game, says James Milner

There were just two English players who featured regularly for the champions

James Milner has rejected suggestions from the Football Association chairman, Greg Dyke, that Manchester City’s Premier League triumph is “pretty depressing” for English football. Dyke argued that, as only two Englishmen regularly played for the champions, it was of little practical benefit to England’s World Cup preparations.

The City midfielder, however, pointed out that his four years at the Etihad Stadium have transformed him as a player and given him a mental toughness that would be very useful to Roy Hodgson’s side in Brazil.

“It would be better for England if the percentage of English players were higher in the Premier League. Some teams have got more, some have got less but, overall, the percentage is the lowest it has ever been,” Milner said.

“But I have spent four years playing alongside David Silva, Sergio Aguero and these kinds of stars and I am a better player than I was four years ago. You are constantly fighting for your place. You are under pressure every time you step out on to the pitch.

“When I go into World Cup games, it will be no different to the pressure I face every week at City to keep my place in the team – and that is what will help English football.”

Asked if the years spent playing in the same midfield as Silva, Samir Nasri and Yaya Touré had made him a better footballer technically or mentally, Milner replied: “Both. I think the experience of playing in big games in the Champions League, where the pressure is so high,  and then winning league titles can only help in a World Cup.

“You have been there before, you can control the nerves. I am four years older than I was [at the last World Cup] in South Africa and have probably played another 150 games for Manchester City in that time – playing and training with the quality we have here – how can you not be a better player?”

James Milner James Milner  

The 2-0 win over West Ham United on Sunday that saw them regain the Premier League title was City’s 57th match of the season. The German Cup final this Saturday will be Bayern Munich’s 55th – and that includes a domestic and European Super Cup and a World Club Championship. The maximum they could have played was 56. Once more an English footballer preparing for a World Cup is asked how tired he is.

“You can’t be tired when you know there is a World Cup coming,” Milner replied. “It is one of the greatest things on earth.

“You can say every kid in this country grows up wanting to win the Premier League but how many kids kick a ball against a garage door dreaming of scoring a goal in a World Cup final? When things are going well in football, you can keep going, you don’t feel tired.”

In his four years at the Etihad Stadium, Milner has won all three domestic trophies, although he did not play in the 2011 FA Cup final. There is, however, no question which trophy the Abu Dhabi owners will now demand.

“The next thing we need to win is the European Cup,” said Milner. “City are a massive club in every way. You just have to look at how the club has expanded, the players that we have, the Champions League has to be the next step.

“It was disappointing to go out to Barcelona [this year] but, had things been slightly different, you never know. We beat Bayern, the European champions, in their own back yard. It shows we can do it.”

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