Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Milner Is Ready to Taste the Success; Soft Drink Only for Tough Tyke

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Milner Is Ready to Taste the Success; Soft Drink Only for Tough Tyke

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike McGrath

JAMES MILNER will drink orange juice rather than Champagne if he ends his England Under-21 career with glory in the European Championships - but it will still be a sparkling moment after the turmoil in his career.

The 23-year-old midfielder played for his beloved Leeds when they imploded, then moved to Newcastle United where Graeme Souness said he would not be "buying a team of James Milners".

It is only this season at Aston Villa where he has felt stability. It has coincided with a call-up to the England senior squad and playing a key role in the under- 21s reaching the semi-finals of their tournament in Sweden.

"Those setbacks help you mentally," Milner said. "It's how you show your character." That resilience was displayed in Gothenburg when Milner missed a first-half penalty against Spain but picked himself up and scored the second goal in a victory that sealed a place in the last four.

Milner is suspended for the Group B clash against Germany next week but will return for the semi-final and hopefully the final. Even if they win the tournament, Milner is teetotal and will not be celebrating with alcohol. "You get one chance at football," he said.

"There is nothing wrong with having a drink at the right times, you see (Cristiano) Ronaldo having champagne and it doesn't make him a worse player. It's not in my nature and that is the sacrifice you make to make it to the top. Your friends are going with girls and drinking cider - it's a decision you make." Milner's mental toughness is something he developed at Elland Road.

"It probably helped me playing at 16 in a Leeds team where things weren't going right," he admitted. "There were things going on off the field, court cases, relegation, financial troubles. That stands you in good stead and helps you to be strong mentally.

"It seems that until last season there was always instability at the club I've been at and I've been worrying about managers getting sacked. Obviously that is not easy, you have to prove yourself all over." That was the case at St James's Park where there was a quick turnover of managers and Milner being namechecked by Souness when the Scot was outlining the problems of the club. …

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