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Milner Marathon Man


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I can be United marathon man

Feb 27 2007

By Luke Edwards, The Journal


James Milner has vowed to be Newcastle's marathon man as the youngster steels himself to smash through the 60-game barrier this season.


Milner was left out of the starting line-up in the 1-0 defeat at Wigan as manager Glenn Roeder finally gave the England Under-21 international the opportunity to rest an ankle injury which has dogged him since the start of the year.


But when the former Leeds United midfielder came on as a second-half substitute at the JJB Stadium, it was his 41st appearance of the season for his club.


With another six England Under-21 caps under his belt, the 21-year-old, who came within a few minutes of leaving Newcastle for Aston Villa in the summer, is already approaching the half century mark in a marathon campaign.


However, while some would be keen for a rest, Milner has reassured Roeder that he has the mental and physical strength to keep on going until the end of the season.


"I'm not feeling tired and have never for one moment considered asking the gaffer for a rest," said Milner, who would have moved to Villa Park in August if Mark Viduka had agreed to leave Middlesbrough for Newcastle.


"You train every day and work hard. I've had a bit of a niggle since January but that's the only problem. It's a sore ankle and I just have to get through that but I'm fit enough and will keep going.


"There's no chance of me slackening or not giving everything. I'd love to break 60 games for the season, no problem. Football's my profession and you want to play week in, week out. It's mental more than anything because we are fit enough and conditioned to play twice a week.


"Obviously, it can be quite tough, some games you will feel more tired than others. If you are working hard, some of the heavy pitches will affect your legs but as I say, it's our profession and we will just get on with it."


Much was made last season of Steven Gerrard's marathon campaign when Liverpool's captain began the domestic season with a Champions League qualifier against TNS Solutions in July and ended it in May with a man-of-the-match display in the FA Cup final victory over West Ham. The England midfielder played 59 games for club and country before heading off to the World Cup in Germany, but if Newcastle make it to the Uefa Cup final, Milner could have played an incredible 64 games.


Milner added: "Steven Gerrard played around 60 games last year and, if we go all the way in Europe, I'll get pretty close to that if you throw in my Under-21 appearances.


"I certainly couldn't have envisaged that at the start of the season. But I just want to play football and thankfully I've been given that opportunity here. I just want to prove myself and prove I should be in this team week in, week out."


Despite Milner's ambitious appearance target, he knows the Magpies face a monumental challenge to make it to the Uefa Cup final in Glasgow in May.


United face dangerous Dutch outfit AZ Alkmaar in the last 16 and, if they pass that test, the likes of Seville, Tottenham, Werder Bremen and Benfica could await them in the quarter-finals. But Milner remains confident that a campaign which began in mid-July can end in the ultimate glory 10 months later.


He said: "This club has had to come through the hard way in Europe, the Intertoto Cup, but this club needs to be in Europe and now we have to prove what a big club it is by hopefully winning some silverware.


"We know Alkmaar are a quality team just like the others who remain in the competition. You look down the list and they are all good teams. We'd have preferred to be at home second in the next round but hopefully we can get a good solid first leg result and keep a clean sheet over there."


Meanwhile, Newcastle goalkeeper Shay Given is hoping he still has a long career ahead of him after witnessing Wigan veteran John Filan roll back the years.


The 37-year-old Filan produced four fine saves in his side's 1-0 victory over the Magpies at the JJB Stadium on Sunday, including a penalty stop to deny Nolberto Solano just before the half hour.


That proved to be the game's turning point as Given, back in the side after a five-week lay-off with a groin injury, could then do nothing about Ryan Taylor's stunning 40th-minute free-kick winner.


"Their keeper made a good save from Nobby's penalty, and had that gone in it could have made for a totally different outlook on the game," said 30-year-old Given. "But he saved it and they've grabbed the three points, although I thought he looked very comfortable all day, making a few other decent saves besides that.


"I guess at 37, I've a few years left in me yet - hopefully. But to be playing at that age, I've a lot of respect for him."


The Magpies slipped back into the bottom half of the table on the back of the defeat, and now trail sixth-placed Reading by seven points with 10 matches remaining.


United's hopes of clinching a place in Europe will fast recede if they continue to let chances of victory slip, as they did against the Latics.


"We'd obviously like to get back into the top six, but to do that we have to win at places like Wigan," added Given.


"There's still a possibility, and as long as that's the case then we will keep fighting.


"But this was a game from which we should have taken at least a point, maybe even all three with the chances we had in the first half.


"In contrast I didn't have much to do, just a save at the end of each half, although they did score a pretty special goal.


"To be honest I never got anywhere near it. I knew before the game he (Taylor) was good on set pieces, but sometimes as a goalkeeper you have to hold your hands up.


"A bit of quality at the end of the day, and a lack of luck in front of goal on our part, has won the game for them."

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Still bemused by Roeder playing him against a bunch of part timers with the game effectively won and then leaving him out of an important away game?? :uglystupid2:


Agreed! Seems very daft!!


Milner has to be my player of the season so far, he's consistantly good and occaisionally excellent, works hard getting back to help Nobby and is great going forward, he can beat players with either foot too, he's always looking for the ball, his confidence is growing as is the player, his shooting has been superb second only to Oba imo, his crossing is now good too (shame nobody attacks them), he's proffessional 100% committed, he's still very young and his attendence record is amazing (specially for a Toon player) second to none.


Thank God he didn't leave as we'd be screwed without him.


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Still bemused by Roeder playing him against a bunch of part timers with the game effectively won and then leaving him out of an important away game?? :uglystupid2:


Spot on.

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Still bemused by Roeder playing him against a bunch of part timers with the game effectively won and then leaving him out of an important away game?? :uglystupid2:

Yeah, the only thing I can think of is that Roeder wanted to play a big back four to combat Wigan's physical style so he used that game to take Nobby out of the defence and rest Milner.
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Thank you for your wonderful service this season James our Milner.


Finger crossed Milner is going to be our huge asset for years to come. I just think that this marathon season will do him a lot of good. Next season after the summer rest he will become a much better player!

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