Going from strength to strength

It is not just his efforts on the field that gain James Milner great acclaim. He is also a model professional off it, writes Patrick Keenaghan.

It is now over a decade since James Milner burst onto the scene as a fresh-faced 16-year-old at Leeds United but while his former club has endured tough times since then, the same cannot be said for Milner.

Much has changed at Elland Road since 2002 but Milner’s career has gone from strength to strength and he capped his progression by helping Manchester City win the Barclays English Premier League last season.

Milner was a product of the much-praised Leeds youth system around the time that the likes of Alan Smith, Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell and Rio Ferdinand were helping Leeds march on to the UEFA Champions League semifinals.

However, he never got to taste that success and made his debut in a struggling team before he was sold to Newcastle as Leeds cashed in on its prize assets during its financial difficulties. He gained many plaudits as a youngster at Leeds but was left heartbroken when he was part of the squad that was relegated from the English Premier League in 2004.

Milner has never forgotten his Yorkshire roots though and his pride in where he comes from is clear for all to see.

“In Yorkshire, we seem to have a lot of grit in us. Maybe it’s something they put in the water or maybe it’s the Yorkshire puddings,” he joked.

It is this light-hearted yet mature attitude that has endeared Milner to everyone he has come into contact with during his rise to the dizzy heights of being an EPL champion.

It has not been an easy route to the top though. In contrast to the way Raheem Sterling was fast-tracked into the England squad recently, Milner made a record 46 appearances for the England Under-21 side before he was given his chance in the senior team. Milner is happy to put the hard work in and deflects much of the praise which comes his way onto the team rather than basking in individual glory.

Of his role in the England side, he said: “I’d like to add more goals to my game, but if I never score another goal for England and we won the World Cup and I was running around doing the not-glamorous things, I’d be delighted.”

It is not just his efforts on the field that gain tea-total Milner great acclaim. He is also a model professional off it. It is more likely that he would be seen coming out of a charity event than splashed across the front pages of national tabloids. He has continued to enhance his already positive reputation by embarking on a new venture and launching the James Milner Foundation which will help to promote the work of charities around England, including the child cruelty group NSPCC.

In typically humble style, Milner said: “I am privileged to be in a position to launch a charitable foundation. With the help and support of valued patrons and partners, the James Milner Foundation hopes to raise significant funds and awareness to help make a difference to people of all ages within society.”

Helping others seems to be Milner’s role both on and off the pitch and the fact that he remains a key figure at City despite the millions they have spent on foreign talent highlights his ability.

Milner is not married but is in a long-term relationship with Amy Fletcher, who he has been with since his Leeds United days. It is not known what car Milner drives.

FACTFILE Name: James Milner. Position: Midfielder. Club: Manchester City. D.O.B.: 4/1/1986. England caps: 32. England goals: 1.

Moment to remember: Winning the PFA Young Player of the Year in 2010.

Moment to forget: Former Newcastle boss Graeme Souness telling the press: “You will never win anything with a team full of James Milners.”

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