Football, by its nature, is a fickle game. It’s comprised of fickle fans, fickle managers and fickle players. All too often we change our minds about what’s presented to us on the basis of one fairly insignificant shortcoming.
It’s not too damning a thing to say that we football lovers are a rather narrow-minded bunch. So when we watch a decent footballer, one who demonstrates competence, strength and consistency in abundance – but no fancy footwork and a penchant for Cash in the Attic – we tend to turn our attention elsewhere.
We become blinded. In the case of Jame Milner, we’re blinded by his boredom. Boringness aside, this is a loss for football because Milner is – hold the front pages – actually a bloody fantastic footballer.
— James Milner (@JamesMilner) April 1, 2018
Beyond the set in stone grimace, the unnerving consistency of your grandfather’s pocket watch and the likely tendency to audit blades of grass on his lawn, Milner is a blessing to the footballing world. Rarely do the football purists of this life get to enjoy such a footballer’s footballer.
Milner will never be caught with neon pink boots. Milner will never attempt a stepover when the back-pass is screaming out. And, best of all, Milner’s hair is good ol’ Brogue-type brown and it ain’t going blonde for no one.
The bloke is a throwback to the rose-tinted days of yore and sends middle-aged men across the country into a weepy, nostalgic sense of dazed euphoria. Wednesday night, however, saw a James Milner that doesn’t warrant our respectful piss-taking. The man was an indomitable machine in a game overrun with class.
The headlines may yet again have been grabbed by Merseyside’s sub-par answer to Destiny’s Child (the greatest trio of all time) – Salah, Mané and Firmino – as well as a refreshing appraisal for the young Trent Alexander-Arnold, but it was Milner who stood out among the crowd.
Was it not Milner’s performance that catalysed Liverpool’s stunning smash and grab goal bout? It was certainly Milner’s cutting, perfectly weighted ball on the 11th minute through to Salah that enabled the Reds’ first strike on the scoreboard. And, again, less than ten minutes later, Milner was central and it was his sturdy figure that upturned Ilkay Gündoğan to dispossess City and lay claim to the ball for his side as they established a two-goal lead almost immediately.
At the third, Milner would have leapt like a salmon on acid to power home Liverpool’s lead had he not been beaten to the ball by a better placed – and, may we say, selfish – Sadio Mané. He was – or could have been – absolutely instrumental in all three of Liverpool’s goals and deserves full plaudits for what was a truly exceptional performance on a night where his fellow stars shone their brightest.
Suiting Milner to a tee, the game was split into an attacking masterclass in the first half and a defensive schooling for the second. Liverpool’s attacking ability is evident from the bag of goals taken away from Anfield that night and we needn’t salivate over those any longer. More importantly, their impenetrable backline meant that one of Europe’s greatest attacking forces – second only, perhaps, to NATO’s nuclear majesty – landed zero shots on target.
Crucially, James Milner had been fundamental in the success of both strings in Liverpool’s bow. As a box-to-box midfielder who covers his back four with ease and has been known to prop up the defence himself, the 32-year-old also has a skillful eye going forward. We’ve seen the pin-point passes, the whipped, curling crosses and even the odd bullet nestling into the upper echelons having been struck from the double-knotted boot of James Milner.
Bar a social life, the man has it all.
If Ballon d’Ors were afforded fairly – and not for looks, tans and earrings – James Philip Milner would be a name regularly engraved into that little golden trophy.
And so we’ve come full circle. James Milner doesn’t have a Ballon d’Or for the same reason we fickle football fans don’t rave about him down the pub: the fella is dull and the fella lacks flair. Though, having said that, the fella’s recently downloaded Twitter; and if you failed to laugh at that first tweet then you’re as soulless as we all once thought he was.
— James Milner (@JamesMilner) March 22, 2018
James Milner is, there’s no doubt about it, the absolute boy.