There's not much James Milner hasn't experienced throughout his years in English football but the Liverpool midfielder is set to achieve several firsts during Sunday's Merseyside derby at Goodison Park.
Having only joined the club in the summer, it will of course be the No.7’s maiden contest against Everton with the Reds, amid an atmosphere he expects to be ‘magnified by 10, 20 or 30 times’.
He’ll also have the honour of leading Brendan Rodgers’ team out for the 225th meeting between the two neighbours, continuing to deputise for Jordan Henderson with the captain still on the sidelines due to injury.
Liverpool are determined to follow up a 3-2 victory over Aston Villa in their previous league outing with another positive result, especially with an international break to come immediately after the game.
Add into the mix the intensity and responsibility that comes with representing the fans in such a crucial clash within the city and it’s easy to understand why Milner is approaching the game in a seriously focused mood.
He told Liverpoolfc.com: “I’ve got derby experience at other teams I’ve played for but, having played at Everton, I know what a tough place it is to go anyway and the atmosphere that’s created there.
“I can only imagine it’s magnified by 10, 20 or 30 times playing in a Merseyside derby. It will be a great atmosphere, I’m sure.
“Obviously any derby you play in, you want to do it for the team but more so for the fans – they’ve got to go into work the next day and face their workmates and have bragging rights for at least three or four months.
“It’s important for them and everyone at the club and gives you that boost. Form always goes out of the window going into a derby.
“It’s normally a one-off game and a bit of a cup final and a completely different game to anything else you’re going to play for the rest of the season.”
Given the heightened emotions of a derby fixture, Milner believes he has an important role in offering a calm presence in the centre of the park to help guide those around him if needed.
“It’s obviously a huge honour to lead out the team and that pressure doesn’t change whether you’re captain or not,” the England international continued.
“You want to go out there and perform well and win the game for the team, that’s the most important thing. If being captain I can help some of the guys in keeping them calm in pressure situations and help out some of the younger guys, then great.
“But whether you’re wearing the armband or not, I try to be the same player and try to help the guys in the same way and be a bit of a leader on the field. I think that’s important.
“We’ve got other great leaders in the squad as well. It is important that you stick together and the guys that have been there before and played in derbies can help out the younger guys and players who haven’t done that.
“It’s about sticking together and making sure we have more than one captain out there.”
Milner will be among the Reds joining up with their countries for international duty once proceedings have concluded at Goodison Park.
And he sees the pause in Barclays Premier League action next week as an extra motivational tool in the team’s attempt to claim the three points.
The 29-year-old said of a derby win: “It gives everyone around the club a boost, the players and all the fans.
“It’s even bigger that we’re going into an international break after it as well – you haven’t got a game a couple of days later to bounce back if things don’t go your way.
“It gives the fans those extra days to bask in the glory of a win if we do get the job done. Hopefully we will, because there’s only international football for the next 10 days.
“That makes it even more important, to take momentum into the internationals and come out of that with another set of fixtures.”