Milner's journey from Anfield to The Amex

The midfielder joined us in the summer from Liverpool.

By Luke Nicoli • 17 August 2023

By Paul Hazlewood
James made his first Premier League start for us in the 4-1 win over Luton.

After eight hugely successful years with Liverpool, James Milner has headed south for the first time in his career, joining the Albion ahead of what is going to be a groundbreaking campaign for the club. He may have turned 37 in January, but he remains fully driven and fully focused on helping the team, both domestically and in Europe this season…

James, you’ve been down south a few weeks now. How are you finding it?

This is a great club, with a great group of lads and a top manager, so I’m enjoying it. People have told me for a few years that the weather’s better down here, but up to this week I wasn’t 100 per cent sure! It’s a lovely part of the world though and I’ve had to adapt a bit because it’s a bit further south than I’ve been used to. Saying that, there’s probably more people having to adapt to my accent rather than the other way round!

So what was it that attracted you to the club?

I was lucky to have a few options but looking at this club, where it’s at, the manager that’s here, the squad and the football that’s being played, I wanted to come and be a part of it. I wanted to go somewhere I feel I can contribute on and off the field, and where Brighton is on their journey, on the way up and obviously going into Europe, I feel I can add a lot of experience and help the boys as much as I can.

Under Roberto De Zerbi, do you feel you can still learn things, even at 37?

Yes, 100 per cent. You’re always learning; I’ve been fortunate to have played for some top managers throughout my career and had eight years under Jurgen Klopp, who is obviously one of the top managers in the world, but speaking to Roberto and seeing some of the things he’s done, it’s a fantastic opportunity for me, coming towards the end of my career, to experience a new manager and take as much as I can from him.

By Paul Hazlewood
James Milner joined us after eight years with Liverpool.

Is it tough settling into a new club when you’ve been elsewhere for so long?

Every club has its subtle differences, it has its people who have been there years and its own traditions, but credit to the boys – they’ve made me feel comfortable very quickly. Maybe with my age as well and having moved around a bit throughout my career, that nervousness has gone. You just come in and be yourself maybe a bit sooner than you would if you were younger, but everyone’s been so welcoming and has made me feel welcome straight away, which is massive. It’s been a pretty smooth transition to be honest.

You played against Brighton last season. Could you sense this was a side on the up?

You could see the style of football; the way they were playing and how difficult it was to play against them – but if you look at the club’s journey all the way through, it’s been great to see. It’s a club that can achieve good things and hopefully this season we can take that next step and build on the foundations that are already in place.

By Paul Hazlewood
James Milner made 332 appearances for Liverpool.

We’ve got a number of exciting young players in and around the team. Do you see it as part of your role to help them?

When I was their age, I was fortunate to have a great senior group of players who looked after me and who I learnt so much from. I was very fortunate to start my career young [James made his Leeds United debut at the age of 16], so by the time I was 23 or 24, I was at the point where I was an experienced player, and have therefore had a long time to feel comfortable in the role [of helping the youngsters]. I try to help as much as I can, where you’re probably not thinking so much now about yourself, it’s the bigger picture – the team, learning what the manager is trying to get across, and making sure his message is being enforced on the pitch. I want to help the boys both on and off the pitch where I can, to drive them on and help them become the best they can possibly be. We’ve got a great squad of players, a good mix of experience and youth, and it’s about making sure they [the youngsters] reach their potential.

By Paul Hazlewood
The 37-year-old has felt comfortable giving guidance to young players since relatively early on in his career.

You’re a veteran of European football, so how different is it going to be, with the added travelling, different opposition, recovery times etc…

It’s completely different. You’re playing against different styles of football, different atmospheres, travelling, maybe getting back at three in the morning, staying over and getting back a day later than you would like, and then you’ve got to adapt back to Premier League football. It’s going to be a new experience for some but, like I said, we’ve got a good group of players who I know can adapt. Last season this team showed that they can beat anyone on their day, but the next step is getting that consistency when you’re possibly needing to play every three days.

How important are the off-field preparations when you’re flying around Europe and playing games in quick succession?

The small percentages can be massive – making sure the nutrition is right, making sure the recovery protocols are right, little things in the treatment room, saving energy after training and games, maybe not as much time on the training field… it will be completely different to just preparing for one game a week, it’s something we have to adapt to and the quicker we do, the more successful we’ll be.