In the past it has been understandable as to why James Milner has started for England, but it will be depressing and negative if he does for England vs Ukraine on Tuesday.
Since the 2010 World Cup, Milner has been routinely selected by Fabio Capello or Roy Hodgson to play on the right hand side of England’s midfield in the bigger matches. In that World Cup he played in the games and did play reasonably well. In fact the same can be said for the Euro 2012 campaign – he has always played well, but only in the role which he can provide.
Milner is a good player; he works very hard and has some talents. But he isn’t exciting or a big enough threat in comparison to the other options. England should start Theo Walcott on the right vs Ukraine and Hodgson should change his habit of picking Milner instead.
It seems Hodgson almost fears playing a more attacking winger against the bigger sides. I do see Hodgson’s reason behind Milner’s starts because Milner can protect the full back and be a buffer who works very hard to help England defend.
But I feel that his place on the side is a waste. As we know, Walcott is a serious threat and still only 24. He is a far better option as he allows England to break away whilst he too has plenty of experience of the big occasions.
I will be irritated as will other England fans if Milner is the name on the starting sheet on Tuesday night as it will once again feel like England are almost scared of going for it. Yes, tactical choices are important, but I don’t think Milner is all that great.
He rarely starts in friendlies or qualifiers against weaker opposition, so why should he be starting when up against more dangerous opponents? It is a boring selection and one that lacks confidence when Milner plays. He has the ability to pick a cross out or even score from distance, but he isn’t exciting or even particularly dangerous; especially compared to the likes of Walcott who often misses out on these games because he is more attacking.
It’s a game that England could seriously benefit from winning. By picking Milner it will be taking the stance that once again England are being defensive and not applying pressure on Ukraine.