Curtis Jones was just 1 year, 9 months and 10 days old when James Philip Milner made his debut against West Ham United. Fast forward to 19 years and we see them playing for the same colours of Liverpool with celebrated success. However, being the only active footballer to be featured in the top 10 Premier League appearances, James Milner brings something to the team which no other player of even exemplary calibre can muster, decisive experience.
In the dying minutes of the match against West Ham United which was already plagued with half-chances, goal-line clearances and close to a nervy end, Curtis Jones received the ball and was swarmed by the attackers of Hammers looking to sneak away and put a long ball forward to score the leveller, but there laid Mr Professional, James Milner, at a ripe old age of 36, pointing away to the corner flag, instructing Jones to “pass the time”.
Often teams, who resort to play the ball or stick to the corner flag trying to keep the ball in possession are considered to be promoting anti-football behaviour and have been marked by fans of both the extremities, but what Milner showed was neither that nor any dark tactic used as a getaway card. It was a tincture of professionalism and game sense which was addressed by nuanced fans of the game.
Protecting a tiny lead of one goal has always been very difficult to hold on to, with numerous examples to show for it. When it comes to additional minutes, the timekeeping is far less than perfect which can change the face of the game even with one quick counterattack, which West Ham, on that night possessed.
Milner showed the perfect awareness in instructing Jones to push the ball into the deepest line and hold it on as it was evident on the clock that the match was going to be over soon.
The 3 points Liverpool gained would have immense value in the long run, considering the fact that the top four race in the Premier League has already been going spicy. Klopp knows and trusts his ace up the sleeve, Milner to close the game without any mistake.
Young players like Jones, Diaz needs to see and understand through example which Milner, being a professional with 800 matches under his belt, can show with utmost pragmatism.
This understanding of things that can impact a league year, in the long run, has made Liverpool the well-oiled machine that it is, and players like Milner the engine that drives it through the gates of victory.