‘I don’t want to be paid to sit and watch’

With Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard out of the picture, Milner’s chances of more first-team action improved after the World Cup, but he was disappointed when manager Roy Hodgson pulled him to one side before the Swiss game and informed him debutant Fabian Delph would be starting instead. By Paul Hirst.

James Milner thinks he would have earned far more than 50 England caps had he thrown temper tantrums like some of his team-mates apparently have.

Milner joined Manchester City last month when he became the 56th player to reach a half-century of appearances for his country.

Milner's contribution to the 2-0 win in Switzerland was minor, coming on with 17 minutes to go to shore up the midfield.

The 28-year-old has become used to such brief appearances for the national side. The former Leeds player has made 29 starts for his country — just 17 of which have been in competitive matches — and he has only started three matches in the last year, with his most recent coming against minnows San Marino.

He was an unused substitute again in Estonia but Milner insists he never thought about calling time on his international career.

The Manchester City midfielder said: “(Not playing) is frustrating, but on the other hand I don’t think I could ever turn my back on my country. I couldn’t look back on my career and think: ‘I stopped representing my country to have a few extra days off in the international break.’ ”

With Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard out of the picture, Milner’s chances of more first-team action improved after the World Cup, but he was disappointed when manager Roy Hodgson pulled him to one side before the Swiss game and informed him debutant Fabian Delph would be starting instead.

Milner responded in the same way he has done to hardship throughout his life. He got his head down and tried to work hard to prove the manager wrong. Interestingly, he thinks having such an attitude has cost him many caps.

“There are two ways to react — you can sulk and mouth off to the press,” Milner said. “Or you can work harder on the training field, and that’s the way I like to do it. It is in my character I suppose.

“Maybe in some ways that does count against me if I’m not sulking or ruining training when the manager leaves me out. I’m not naming names, but I’ve played with enough players for you to work out who (has sulked).

“But it is no good for the team if someone does that sort of thing. The team comes first, whether it is England or Manchester City.”

Milner thinks his selflessness stems from the discipline of his parents, who insisted he complete his education before he started playing football for a living. They were wise to do so as their son passed 11 GCSEs. He has recently started learning a new subject — Spanish — to help him communicate with the Hispanics at City, and there are plenty of them.

Milner’s playing style also reflects his selfless personality. The Yorkshireman, who has won two Premier League titles at City, is a grafter. He once ran 17 kilometres in an Under-21 game.

Milner thinks he would be regarded as more of a flair player did he not track back, but once again, that is not his style.

And he could not care less if he is labelled boring, as one Twitter parody account has, because of the way he conducts himself on and off the pitch.

“It’s irrelevant to me what people think about me,” he said. “Maybe if I stop working hard, I become a lazy player and start doing things I shouldn’t do, I’ll get rid of the boring Milner tag!” Milner’s upturn in form has meant he has started four of the last five games for City. The club have also recognised Milner’s improvement and they now appear to be closer to extending the player’s contract, which expires next June.

“We’ve been in talks with the club, we’ve talked about it and hopefully it can get sorted some time soon,” said Milner, who was frustrated at his lack of playing time at City last year.

“I don’t want to be paid to sit and watch,” he added. “You want to feel like you’re contributing and enjoy your football as much as you can, so I am in a happier place now.”

© PA Sport