James Milner slams ‘ridiculous’ schedule and wonders ‘how long can it last’… as midfielder calls for a break without international matches every other summer to ease the burden on players
- James Milner remains in the Premier League 21 years after his debut
- He leaves Liverpool this summer but is expected to join Brighton
- The 37-year-old has condemned the ‘ridiculous’ schedule facing the players
James Milner definitely agrees with legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly that the league is a marathon not a sprint – but now wearing down the best players.
At 37 and leaving Liverpool for a new challenge, almost certainly with Brighton, Milner is tireless, almost a freak of nature considering he made his Premier League debut for Leeds United aged 16 and 309. days.
But in his footballing past, he doesn’t have to deal with the extra demands of international play unlike many of his teammates. He believes a relentless world schedule is impacting top stars through exhaustion and a succession of injuries.
As he prepared for his final appearance in a Liverpool shirt, against Southampton today, he said: “Football is so intense. It’s all year round now. You watch the athletes and they try to compete for the Olympic Games or the European Championships which take place every four or two years.
“It’s impossible to always be at your peak no matter what and that’s how you deal with times when your physical level isn’t quite there. You’re just a little out of shape or some players are out of shape.
James Milner has denounced the ‘ridiculous’ schedule facing leading footballers
The 37-year-old received a guard of honor after his last Liverpool game at Anfield
“The most successful team eventually wins the title or trophies and succeeds.” At Liverpool, we haven’t handled those situations as well as we would have liked this season, but last season we were so close and we probably ran out of steam when we were so close to winning everything.
“It’s football and sometimes that gets overlooked in terms of how it’s been all year now.” For the international boys, it’s ridiculous. There are international tournaments in the summer, so they play games instead of having free time. This is the hardest part of everything.
Inevitably, he adds, something has to give when big players are whipped almost to a stop.
“Yes, I think the workload is unfair for the main players,” he said. “Every two years there shouldn’t be an international tournament and the players should benefit from the whole summer for sure.” How long can this last? The intensity and the number of matches…
The 37-year-old midfielder felt the workload expected of big players was ‘unfair’
He leaves Anfield after winning all major domestic trophies in England and the Champions League
“That’s something I would do for sure – have every other summer off – and then you can go as far as you want in the season but give them a break otherwise where this is all heading. he?”
So where is Milner headed after his successful stint on Merseyside? He wasn’t ready to confirm anything but what is certain is that he is staying in the Premier League, giving him the opportunity to review the 653 appearances of his great pal Gareth Barry, the most in the history of the league.
Milner is in third place with 618 just behind Ryan Giggs with 632. “I didn’t think about it to be honest,” he added. I think you look at records and things like that when you’re done playing. As you play, it’s just on to the next, then the next.
“People keep mentioning him now, so it will be in my head. Now that it’s close enough, yes, it would be nice to have him. I know Gaz very well and he was an amazing player and professional.
Having won virtually every major honour, it seems incredible that Milner is keen to return to a different environment next season, and going forward coaching and management could be an option.
He said: “Some days you think I’d like to try management, then other days you see a manager sign a new contract and six weeks later he’s sacked and you think the golf course is maybe a better option!”
Milner is set to join Brighton from Roberto de Zerbi next season and could become the Premier League’s most capped player
“I was very lucky to play under amazing managers – some also mediocre, so you can learn from them as well.”
This will be put on the back burner for now as Milner remains an active player.
“I’m still very motivated to do what I can and play as much as I can and contribute to a club and win trophies.
‘The reader is still there even though I’m happy with what I did. I could always do more.
A FEW TIRED YEARS
Top-flight players have endured a hectic schedule over the past few years with a postponed Euro and a mid-season Winter World Cup – and it shows no signs of stopping:
June 2021 Start of EURO 2020
Jul 2021 EURO 2020 ends
August 2021 PL season start
September 2021 World Cup qualifiers
October 2021 World Cup qualifiers
November 2021 World Cup qualifiers
March 2022 International friendlies
End of May 2022 PL season
June 2022 Nations League
August 2022 PL season start
September 2022 Nations League
November 2022 World Cup start
End of the December 2022 World Cup
Dec 2022 PL restarts
Mar 2023 EURO 2024 Qualifiers
End of May 2023 PL season
June 2023 EURO 2024 Qualifiers
August 2023 Start of PL season
September 2023 EURO 2024 Qualifiers
October 2023 EURO 2024 Qualifiers
EURO 2024 qualifiers November 2023
March 2024 Two internationals
End of May 2024 PL season
June 2024 Start of EURO 2024
July 2024 EURO 2024 ends
August 2024 PL season start