James Milner on new beard, contract decision, playing piano and more

InterviewJames Milner on new beard, contract decision, playing piano and more

By Chris Shaw in Austria


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You'll have noticed something different about James Milner in pre-season.

The Liverpool vice-captain has, at the behest of his teammates, been growing a beard as he goes about preparing for another campaign – his eighth with the club.

Milner, who extended his time at the Reds for another year by signing a new contract in June, explained to Liverpoolfc.com: “A couple of weeks ago we were in Singapore, we were in the treatment room having a bit of craic and Hendo and Robbo were on me and said, ‘Go on, you need to grow it.’

“I said, ‘Alright, why not? I’ll do it for banter.’ We’ll see where it goes. They’ve got a month of growth; we’re two weeks in so we’ll see where it goes from here. They’re in control of it, so if it’s no good it’s their fault!”

The No.7 was speaking in between Jürgen Klopp’s squad’s double sessions on Tuesday at their Austria training camp, which includes a clash with Salzburg this evening.

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Watch: We catch up with James Milner in Austria

Milner reflected on his decision to pen a fresh deal with Liverpool in the summer, explaining both the timing and the factors that led to the agreement.

He also discussed the team’s progress in pre-season, why there are some red ears within the group, revealed the new skill he is attempting to master, and more.

Read the rest of the interview below…

If we could start by rewinding a little bit… it’s the first time we’ve spoken to you properly since you signed a new contract in the summer. How happy were you to get that done?

Delighted. It’s an incredible football club; the support we get all over the world, the group of players and staff that I’m lucky enough to be working with every day, the size of the club, the success the club has had in the past and in the recent history since I’ve been at the club. It’s been great to be part of that. And obviously the drive is to go on and keep winning trophies and keep being successful.

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You had something of a decision to make before you signed the deal. What were the key factors for you and was there one that tipped it over?

No, I think the part of the season we were in there were so many games and such big things, it is a big decision and something you don’t really want to take at that time. It was something I didn’t really think about too strongly until the end of the season. Speaking to the club, they were happy with that. It was always my preference that I wanted to stay. The disappointment of the [Champions League] final but then you see the reaction of the fans on the parade and see what an incredible football club it is and the support we get; it was a special day and shows what the club and the city is all about.

It’s nothing new but we’ve seen again over pre-season and while we’ve been here the squad spirit and togetherness in the group. There’s some new faces and the younger lads but the personalities seem to slot straight in?

Yeah and that’s credit to the boys and credit to the manager for the atmosphere he creates and the opportunities he gives us. You see how hard we train. We train so hard and do a lot of sessions, but in the times where we get chance to have a bit of downtime we’re given opportunities to be together and create those relationships. And you can see the way the boys have started in the games as well – because obviously you only play good football when you’re happy. The new boys coming in and doing well, that’s all part of it.

It’s a very strong group. It takes time to develop that and that has obviously been developed over a long time. You unfortunately lose a few faces but the new guys coming in, pre-season is a great time to do it – you are away together and a few days seems like probably a month together if you’re only in and out of the training ground. The boys have slotted straight in and it is great to see that. The atmosphere has been fantastic and that’s exactly what you need going into a big season.

UNO, laughs and hard graft: The inside account of LFC's Austria training camp

RevealedUNO, laughs and hard graft: The inside account of LFC's Austria training campThe competitive nature within Liverpool's squad stretches to card games in their downtime.

UNO is the game of choice at the moment between the lads. Are you getting involved?

I’ve had the odd game. The boys are loving it and I think there’s a few red ears afterwards as well because I think they’re playing for flicks for whoever is knocked out. Some boys are playing chess, some boys are playing other things, but it’s not about what the lads are doing – it’s the fact they’d rather be doing it together, having fun and enjoying each other’s company than being in the room on their own. I think that’s a big thing and shows the spirit within the squad.

We’ve spotted you tinkling on the piano in the team hotel – are you adding another string to your bow?

I bought the kids a keyboard for Christmas and I was trying to get them into it so I’ve been having a little go. I’m not very good yet. The [club] photographers are incredible so it’s good to watch them get on there and show you how it’s really done.

We went so close to four trophies last season and played every game possible. The manager always says we can’t sleep, the league only gets better. How confident and optimistic would you be going into the season that you can have a real go again?

I think it’s the same every season, it’s always tricky, you don’t know where you stand, how good the pre-season has been. Everyone is obviously all over the place, people are playing different minutes, different times of training, some players came back later than others. It’s the same for every team and it’s never easy. It’s a complete new season, you’re not going to go into the season knowing exactly where you are. All we can do is what we’ve done every year: work as hard as possible, do the preparation as well as possible, get the fitness working.

It helps, the group we’ve had; we’ve been together a long time, with a few new additions obviously. Darwin doesn’t seem to have struggled too much settling in, with the goals he’s been banging in already. That’s great to see. All you can do is prepare as well as you can and hopefully you’re ready. The amount of time we’ve been together, that helps. We’ve been through pre-seasons before, we’ve been through ups and downs, we’ve won trophies, we’ve lost trophies. That definitely helps going into a new season.

  • Watch every Liverpool pre-season game live on LFCTV GO (T&Cs apply) - subscribe at liverpoolfc.com/watch and get 30 per cent off an annual subscription using the code 30GO22


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