James Milner has admitted it will mean everything to him to lead out England at Wembley for the first time when he captains the national side in tonight’s friendly against Holland.
The Liverpool midfielder, with 57 caps to his name, steps in with skipper Wayne Rooney out injured and vice-captain Gary Cahill set to be on the bench, having played in last Saturday’s win over Germany.
Milner, 30, will wear the armband instead, having last played in October’s 2-0 win at home to Estonia.
The two-times Premier League winner, who on Sunday said that he would talk to manager Roy Hodgson after the European Championship and would consider walking away from the international scene were he to be relegated to the role as a bit-part player, believes captaining England is something he will never forget.
Asked what it would mean to him to lead out the Three Lions, Milner said: “Everything. Growing up, you are desperate to pull on that England shirt and you are scoring goals for England at Wembley in your back garden.
“The chance to lead out your country is a massive honour and something you never forget.”
Milner made his debut against Holland almost seven years ago and is the only member of the current squad surviving from that 2-2 draw in Amsterdam. He is now considered an elder statesmen on the international scene and is ready to help through the next batch of young players, having watched from the bench as they stormed back from two goals down to win in Berlin.
When asked if he saw his role as a wise, old head Milner replied: “Yes, unfortunately! I’m at that stage now. It’s a big step up, playing for England an all that comes with it so, the better environment we can make for those [younger] guys, the easier it will be for them to pull on the England shirt and perform at this level.
Milner will lead his country in his 58th appearance for England, and Hodgson said he is the right fit for the current side. “We’ve always known that James is a very good midfield player in central areas, capable of playing wide but also central areas,” the manager said. “The way we’re trying to play at the moment, and the way that Liverpool play, that’s right up his street.
“It’s great he’s got the opportunity tomorrow to play in a position he’s very comfortable in – but also to do it as captain of his country.”