Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Milner May Be Central Figure; New Role for United Star?

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Milner May Be Central Figure; New Role for United Star?

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Douglas

NEWCASTLE manager Kevin Keegan has hinted that James Milner may be used in a central midfield berth next season after praising his impact in that role in United's pre-season curtain raiser at Hartlepool.

As Keegan continues his efforts to bolster Newcastle's threadbare resources with four "quality signings" before the start of the season, he is ready to increase his options in one of his problem areas by shifting Milner into the middle.

It was a position that the former England Under-21 winger filled with some aplomb in the victory on Saturday, and while much stiffer tests would await Milner in that role in the Premier League it is a positional change that both the player and his manager have discussed in the run-up to the new season.

Keegan believes Milner's phenomenal work-rate and fitness level - which the manager rates as among the best that he has encountered in his managerial career - makes him an ideal foil for a holding player like Nicky Butt.

"I know James can play on the right but he's got so much energy - he's the fittest player at this football club and one of the fittest football players I've ever seen when I played or since I've been in management," said Keegan.

"But if you're out wide you have to wait for the ball to come to you whereas in the centre you have a bit more chance to go and find it.

"I thought he did well at Hartlepool."

Milner's future has been the subject of speculation over most of the close season, with long-term admirers Aston Villa and Liverpool both keen to lure him away from St James's Park.

But with the winger content to remain on Tyneside, and Keegan insistent that the club don't let one of their most committed and hard-working professionals depart, he is now almost certain to start the season in the black-and-white of United. …

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