Poll: I couldn’t turn my back on England – Milner

England's James Milner during a press conference at St George's Park
England's James Milner during a press conference at St George's Park
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JAMES MILNER last night revealed how a grounded football education at Leeds United means he will never walk away from England even if playing opportunities remain limited.

The 28-year-old is hoping to earn what would be only his third start in 10 Three Lions games this year when San Marino head to Wembley tomorrow for a Euro 2016 qualifier.

If, however, Hodgson opts to pack his midfield with players more readily associated with goalscoring then it will be another disappointment for Milner, who has been on the field for just 223 of the 810 minutes that England have played in 2014.

Despite that, Milner, one of several internationals to come through Leeds’s Thorp Arch Academy, insists he will never quit international football.

He said: “Not playing is frustrating but the England manager has a tough job to do and he picks the best team possible for the team. When I get on the field, all I can do is try and impress the manager enough to play me.

“Playing for your country is a massive honour. There was a time when I was with the Under-21s and it was between me and another player to get into the senior team. And the other player was picked because I could play for the Under-21s.

“So he was picked and that was frustrating as well. I played 46 times for the Under-21s but I would never have turned down playing for the Under-21s because it is playing for England.

“I don’t think I could ever turn my back on my country. I couldn’t finish my career, look back and think, ‘I stopped representing my country and playing for England to have a few extra days off in the international break’.

“I couldn’t do it (quit England). My opinion is I would rather try forcing my way in and that it is also a great honour playing for England.”

Milner’s most recent cause to be left disappointed on international duty came just last month when Fabian Delph, who came through the Leeds Academy a few years after the Manchester City man, was named in the starting line-up ahead of him.

Delph went on to justify fully the faith of Hodgson with a solid performance as the Three Lions triumphed 2-0.

Milner added: “The manager made the decision he thought was right and Fab played well in tough circumstances; it was a tough game away from home.

“But it is disappointing, as you want to play every game. There are, though, two ways to react. You can sulk and mouth off to the press or work harder on the training field and try to force your way in. That is the only way I know how to do it.”

Asked where such a patient and mature approach comes from, Milner, once the Premier League’s youngest goalscorer in his days at Elland Road, replied: “I think my missus would question you saying I am patient. I am definitely not patient.

“But maybe it is my mum and dad. Plus, coming through at Leeds, I had a very good football education. The senior players had a massive influence on that.

“Doing things the right way, Leeds are a massive part of that. From being there when I was 10-years-old, playing in the first team when I was 16 and leaving at 18. You look back at that time and it all had a massive part in shaping me as a footballer and a character as well.”

Milner has been in fine form for Manchester City this season, his displays earning a string of rave reviews.

Whether that will be enough to earn a start on what will, if selected, be his 51st appearance for the senior side remains to be seen.

But the Etihad faithful have certainly made it clear that they want the 28-year-old tied down beyond the expiry of his current deal at the end of this season.

Talks are underway over an extension with Milner having become one of the first-choice picks in Manuel Pelligrini’s side understood to have made the midfielder keen to stay.

The former Leeds junior is, in fact, so content at the Etihad that he has been learning Spanish to help him converse with team-mates David Silva, Sergio Aguero, Pablo Zabaleta and Martin Demichelis.

One-time team-mate Micah Richards, now at Fiorentina in Italy, let that nugget of information slip in a recent interview, prompting Milner to add: “He killed me there, didn’t he?

“I will need to see how Micah’s Italian is next time I see him. Spanish is something I started doing when the old manager was in charge of City so it wasn’t particularly something to do with that.

“I go on holiday in Spain and I have always wanted to learn another language. That usually involves using books, but I got a teacher and started seeing her every week.

“It helps (at City) because a few of the lads don’t speak great English. The manager’s English is great so I don’t really need to. But,” he joked, “it helps me understand if he is talking about me.”