James Milner Can Re-Establish His Relevance for England in Ukraine
England are due to take on the Zhovto-Blakytni in Kiev on Tuesday in a pivotal World Cup qualifying clash, but the Three Lions must find an answer in place of their four-goal Manchester United forward.
Andros Townsend and Raheem Sterling are vibrant but inexperienced (the former is uncapped), and Ashley Young has had a less than convincing start to the season with regard to performance.
That leaves the onus to fall on Milner, and although he'll be the subject of much scrutiny throughout the clash, he needs to see it as a chance to put several years of frustration behind him.
"Wherever the manager wants me to play, I'll do it to the best of my ability. But I enjoy playing in the middle. That's probably my best position," Milner stated upon arriving at the club, according to The Telegraph's Mark Ogden.
He was coming off the back of a magnificent season at Villa, where he formed the creative nexus of Martin O'Neill's midfield and scored in the 2-1 League Cup final defeat to Manchester United in 2010.
He probably thought his season's showings were enough to convince Roberto Mancini he was an excellent option in the centre, but rarely did he get to show his talents in that area.
Milner has never been an outstanding winger, with a lack of top-end speed separating him from the finest in the game, despite an excellent end-product and unrivaled work rate and desire.
He made his name as an up-and-comer in that position but truly flowered in a central berth. Since disappearing into the depths of the Manchester City roster, it's been difficult to tell how good he is and what positions he can still play.
Mancini used him largely as a winger, but cameos at right-wing-back weren't exactly rare either.
Milner has lost his identity as a footballer, and although he will still know his own strengths, the rest of us can be forgiven for forgetting exactly what he offers.
That's evidenced by portions of fans denouncing the potential selection of Milner to face Ukraine, and it's the player's chance to remind everyone exactly what he's made of.
Hodgson will be going to Kiev in search of a win, and every man needs to show up and perform for that to happen.
Milner can make the transition from forgotten man to relevant pro in the space of 90 minutes, and it's up to him to rediscover his form and inspire.
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