Milner recalls Withdean debut

Our new signing was 17 when he faced Albion on loan at Swindon Town.

By Charlie Hanson • 18 June 2023

By Geoff Penn
James Milner looks to tackle Kerry Mayo at Withdean, back in September 2003.

James Milner has been impressed by Albion’s climb up the football pyramid during his career, pointing out that the club has come a long way since our Withdean days.

The midfielder played at our former home as a 17-year-old in a 2-2 draw in September 2003 while on a one-month loan with Swindon Town in League One, before returning to then Premier League Leeds United to become a first-team regular.

“My first game was actually at Withdean,” Milner recalled. “I remember the running track around the edge. It’s crazy to think that was my first game for Swindon.

“It was weird, I had played a lot of games at Leeds under [manager] Terry Venables the season before, but then Peter Reid came in and wasn’t sure about me for whatever reason and he sent me on loan to play under one of his mates Andy King who was manager of Swindon at the time.

By Geoff Penn
Danny Cullip nods the ball away, with James Milner watching on.

“I played six times, did well and then I went back and was in the team every week. Peter said that the loan helped me get back in the team so it worked out well.”

While James has had the opportunity to speak to Roberto De Zerbi and Adam Lallana about how we operate, the midfielder says he can’t get a real taste for life here until he’s in the building.

“You don’t know a club in depth until you’re there and I am sure I will learn the little things that come with playing for the club,” he added.

“It’s been on a great journey. Brighton were promoted from League One just over ten years ago which shows the incredible journey they have been on.”

By Liverpool FC
James Milner celebrates Liverpool's FA Cup win in 2022.

Conversations with Lallana were key in convincing the 37-year-old that we should be the place to continue his playing career.

“Adam has told me many things since he has been with Brighton, mainly about how much he has loved it. He has loved playing under the current manager – his team meetings, how he works, training. He’s enthusiastic very about him and that was one of the attractions in the decision to move, you want to be a part of it.”

For me it was a football decision [to join Brighton]. I am further down the line in my career, but I still feel like I’ve got a lot to give and that’s important to me.

“I am not going to just ease out my playing days, I’ve still got that drive to do well and help the team. It looks like a good fit and I am looking forward to starting.”