Milner ready to step up to full England duty

HE is probably the most experienced 21-year-old in the history of English football, but now James Milner wants to convert that experience into a maiden international cap.

The Newcastle midfielder will make his 32nd England Under-21 appearance in this month's European Championships qualifier against Montenegro, setting a new record for the most caps won at that level of international football.

But while he is understandably proud of his achievements with Stuart Pearce's side, he is ready to step up to the biggest stage of them all.

"I want to play for England," said Milner, ahead of tomorrow's home game with Everton. "I have a lot of experience at Under-21 level and in the Premier League, and I suppose that's the next progression for me to make.

"It's not on my mind too much, because you'll only get into the England squad by playing good football for Newcastle.

"You have to do it week in, week out, and also take your chances with the Under-21s when they come your way. But it's something that I definitely want to do in the future."

Milner's extensive experience does not end with the Under-21s. Provided he maintains his ever-present league record tomorrow, he will make his 146th Premier League appearance despite being more than two months short of his 22nd birthday.

His senior debut came back in August 2001, and with none of his peers able to boast a similarly busy back catalogue, he is hoping his youthful introduction will work in his favour as time wears on.

"I'm very lucky to have got a chance at the age I did," said Milner.

"Terry Venables wasn't scared to put me in when I was at Leeds and I managed to take my chances.

"A lot of 21-year-olds will probably have 30 or 40 games under their belt - I've got more than 200. I'm lucky in that way, and having that much experience at this stage of my career can only stand me in good stead in the future. Hopefully, it'll help me push on."

In many ways, Milner's progression has followed a similar trajectory to that of Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry.

The pair played together during Milner's loan spell at Villa Park and, like the Magpies midfielder, Barry was also something of a teenage prodigy, claiming the Under-21 appearance record himself before he was usurped by goalkeeper Scott Carson.

Hailed as one of England's bright, young things, Barry initially struggled to live up to his reputation.

His transition to the senior international side was anything but smooth but, after excelling against Israel and Russia last month, the versatile left-footer is expected to retain his place in centre midfield for this month's double-header against Estonia and Russia.

Milner has watched Barry's recent promotion with interest, and is hoping to emulate his former team-mate as his own career develops.

"I played with Gareth at Aston Villa and I know what a great player he is," he said. "He's a great professional as well, and it's great that he's finally got his rewards.

"He had to wait a long time to get another chance with England, but it's come in the last few games and he's made the most of it.

"There's a lot of quality in English football, so you have to keep improving if you want to get anywhere. Gareth did that.

"He has won an awful lot of Under-21 caps as well and now he's an integral part of the England team. That's an inspiration for anyone in the same sort of position."

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