The sight of Liverpool’s vice captain in the lineup against Norwich City on Saturday brought consternation among a section of the fanbase. Most worried he couldn’t cut it in the holding midfield role, while others curiosly questioned why Jurgen Klopp was still relying on the 35 year old.

Milner shouting instructions

He of course went on to prove the doubters wrong once again, as he’s done throughout his career. This is after all his 20th Premier League season. Only Ryan Giggs (22) and Gareth Barry (21) have played in more. You would think the most experienced player in the Premier League right now would get a bit more trust than was seen online on Saturday afternoon.

With 565 Premier League appearances come a certain level of nous to navigate a Premier League game no matter the stakes. This is a man that has seen it all at this level. He has gone from being the second youngest player to make his PL debut way back in 2002 (16 years, 309 days), to the youngest player to score a PL goal (a record which has since been broken), to closing in on the all time most appearances in the competition.

He has played all over the pitch in his impressive career so far too, taking in stints on the left wing, right wing, central midfield, left back, right back and even centre forward for Roberto Mancini. He has never let anyone down and he proved on Saturday he isn’t about to start now. Fears that he could be overrun due to a lack of pace was misplaced as he provided a solid shield in front of Matip and the returning Van Dijk.

He captained the side and led by example as he covered 12.65km during the game. A distance no one could match across the opening weekend. That is exactly what the Yorkshireman brings to the table, graft, more graft, and a huge dose of leadership. After the hour mark when Fabinho came on for Ox, you’d have thought Milner will just occupy Ox’s position on the right of the midfield three.

Klopp instead moved him to the left so he could help out the visibly tiring Tsimikas who was making his Premier League debut. Help out he did, as he covered the full back and even gave him a slap across the back of the head to wake him up after he had given the ball away. Millie wasn’t about letting standards drop and Kostas found out the hard way. That moment encapsulated what James Milner brings to the table.

James Milner slapping Tsimikas

Especially in the abscence of captain Jordan Henderson who is a similarly inspired leader. Millie was solid in two different positions on Saturday as the Reds started their season on a positive note. Going forward, he will keep being a trusted lieutenant for Jurgen Klopp. His role for the most of last season was to come on and help manage games out whilst starting the odd game here and there.

That was until Henderson’s season ending injury meant he had to come into the team. His leadership can never be underestimated. Going forward, he’ll keep plugging holes where necessary without ever truly being first choice. If there is a problem at left back, you can be sure he’ll go there and do a solid job, just like he did in the defensive midfield position on Saturday.

Every squad needs a James Milner; a seasoned pro who leads by example and puts the team first above all. He might not even start this Saturday against Burnley, but if we have a narrow lead and need to see out the game you can be sure Klopp will call on the veteran once again. Having the most used substitute in Premier League history on your bench is an envious and quite invaluable option to have, and Klopp knows that.

James Milner’s will to win is unparalleled

Hopefully there will be such trust from the fanbase next time Milner’s name is on the team sheet. He has absolutely earned it.



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