James Milner would happily never score another goal for England in exchange for winning the World Cup, the Manchester City winger has confessed.
After capping off another fine performance at international level with a goal in the Three Lions’ 5-0 victory over Moldova on Friday, the 26-year-old claimed his all-round contribution is imperative to success.
Roy Hodgson’s shining star on the right flank could never be faulted for his engine – as his dogged attitude and ability to play comfortably on both touch lines – and he is relishing his pivotal role within the England set up.
“If I was to never score another goal for England but we won the World Cup – and I was running around doing the not-glamorous things – I’d be delighted with that,” Milner admitted.
“The main thing is contributing, whether it is with assists or doing the job you have to do for the team. That is what I’ll do and hopefully that will mean scoring more goals.”
Milner has had to adapt his role as a central midfielder into playing on the wings at both club and country level.
And after perfecting his position as an attacking midfielder at Leeds, Newcastle and Aston Villa, Milner is still delighted to perform to his best ability in whatever position the manager asks for.
“It is always nice scoring goals and contributing as much as you can,” Milner added. “I think my best scoring season was at Aston Villa when I was in that more central role.
“I still think central is my best position. That is why Manchester City signed me from Villa because I was playing the middle.
“It is down to the manager to pick the team and if he asks me to play wide, that is where I’ll play as well as I can and perform as well as I can.”
And under Hodgson’s management, Milner has been flourishing in his role – much to the delight of the former England U-21 ace.
“I think the way [Hodgson] wants us to play is very different to maybe how you sometimes play at Manchester City and how we played under [former England boss Fabio Capello],” he said.
“The manager wants you coming in little pockets and playing in there and linking in with the strikers and midfielders and I think that probably helps as well. It adds more to my game than staying as wide as I can.
“I think you saw the other night there was a good freedom to the system. The other boys in the middle interchanged very well, rotation allowing them to get on the ball and wide men coming off the wing.”
Hodgson hopes his men can continue their emphatic form in World Cup qualification when they meet Ukraine at Wembley tomorrow evening.
And they will have to play without the injured John Terry, who suffered a knock to the ankle during Friday’s victory, as he joins Ashley Cole, Andy Carroll, Gareth Barry and Adam Johnson on the sidelines.