James Milner saw the pressures of performing for Liverpool as part of the appeal in joining the club last summer and insists there are 'big personalities' in the dressing room capable of rising to the challenge.
The Reds secured a hard-fought victory against Aston Villa at Anfield on Saturday to put an end to a frustrating run of results that the midfielder felt hadn’t always been deserved.
A 1-1 Europa League draw in Bordeaux was followed by the same scoreline at home to both Norwich City and Carlisle United despite Brendan Rodgers’ team having 70 attempts across the latter two games.
Milner was a driving force behind the win over Villa, one of his former clubs, and provided an early platform to build on when he notched his first Liverpool goal with barely a minute on the clock.
Another important week lies ahead, with FC Sion set to visit Anfield for the second Group B contest in the Europa League before a short journey across Stanley Park for the season’s opening Merseyside derby on Sunday.
“That’s what comes with playing for a big club,” the vice-captain tells Liverpoolfc.com. “There’s always going to be that spotlight and pressure.
“When things aren’t going well, it’s going to come down on you; equally, when things are going well, people can get carried away. It’s important that we keep that level mindset and concentrate on our business.
“I’ve been fortunate to play for big clubs throughout my career and that’s the pressure you get playing in the Premier League and at the top level. Everyone wants to play for big clubs and have that pressure.
“It’s when things aren’t going well that you see who wants it the most and who wants to stand up and be counted.
“We’ve got some big personalities and big players who want to stick together and put in performances. It was a big performance at the weekend – that’s a start for us and we need to move on from there.”
Liverpool’s resolve was tested by Villa in the second half last weekend as Tim Sherwood’s charges refused to throw in the towel once Daniel Sturridge had volleyed the hosts into a 2-0 lead.
Rudy Gestede scored twice at the other end, either side of Sturridge’s second and the Reds’ third, to ensure the contest remained competitive until the final whistle.
Milner was buoyed by the mentality of his teammates in dealing with any semblance of a comeback and feels they’ll be rewarded if they continue to perform in the same vein.
The No.7 explains: “It has shown in the performances, especially at the weekend. Going a couple in front and then conceding so quickly to 2-1, it could have been ‘here we go again’ and people going into their shells and hanging on.
“But we went straight up the other end and scored again – I think that was really important and showed the character in the squad.
“At times when things aren’t going well it’s important you stick together. There have been a lot of things said outside the club at this moment. It’s down to us not to take any notice of that, stick together, stay together as a club and keep believing what we’re doing is right.
“And work as hard as we are; we’re working very hard to keep improving, work on things and be the team we want to be. I’m sure if we continue the amount of work we’re putting in, it has to come good.
“We just have to keep working hard and when things aren’t going well, something I’ve done throughout my career – the only way I know how – is to just keep going and work that bit harder and try to do the right things.
“The things we’re doing, we believe in and it has to come good. The two games before the weekend, we had 70 shots and the ball just wasn’t going in the net for us.
“So it was nice to get a few goals at the weekend; hopefully that gives the lads a confidence boost and the goals will start flying in from now on.”
When he walks through the entrance at Melwood each morning before training, Milner is greeted by an immediate reminder on the wall of the trophy haul amassed by his predecessors in previous years.
Far from being daunted by history, the experienced Englishman instead considers it an inspiration for himself and the current crop.
“Every day you walk through reception and see on the wall the number of trophies that have been won,” says the 29-year-old. “That shows how big the club is and it’s used to success.
“When things aren’t going well, because the club has had that much success in its history, they expect that. That’s fair enough.
“It’s down to the players when they pull on the shirt to understand who you are playing for and the football club and everybody in the dressing room.
“But also all of the fans out there, not just those who pack inside Anfield and travel around the country and Europe, it’s the fans all over the world.
“There is a big responsibility but that’s why I’m here – I want to contribute to this club and be successful here.”
On just his second appearance of the season, Sturridge was in lethal form to help Liverpool overcome Villa in the Barclays Premier League.
A sensational, first-time volley for his first goal and a cool glide into the area and finish into the bottom corner for his second encapsulated the No.15.
0.65 - Daniel Sturridge has the best goals per game rate of any Liverpool player in Premier League history. Vital.— OptaJoe (OptaJoe) 26th Sep 22:26
“It’s helpful!” reflects Milner on his compatriot’s return to action.
“He’s a top player. I saw something about his ratio of goals for Liverpool is better than [Luis] Suarez and people like that. That says everything you need to know. He’s a great player with great quality.
“I thought Danny Ings was exceptional up there with him as well. It gives us great options up there – those two and the other lads who are unfortunately injured at the moment.
“We’ve got so many different types of strikers. That helps us and helps the manager, whichever way we want to play and which style of football we want to play, we can do that.
“Studge is one of a great group of strikers we’ve got and he’s a top-class player and hopefully he can keep doing what he’s doing and stay fit. Any team would miss him.
“We’ve unfortunately had a few more injuries recently as well and that’s bad timing for us, but we have got a good squad of quality players and I’m sure we can deal with that.”