James Milner: Liverpool midfielder watches youngsters in the FA Cup

Goalkeeper Alisson was in Rio de Janeiro. Striker Roberto Firmino was in The Maldives. Midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum was in Dubai. And right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold was in Miami.

Just some of the sunshine destinations Liverpool’s superstars found themselves in as the club’s youngsters played Shrewsbury in an FA Cup tie on Tuesday night.

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James Milner? The veteran of over 800 career matches was sitting on a bench at a chilly Anfield, supporting Curtis Jones and co in their replay against the mid-table League One side.

The former England midfielder, who is recovering from a hamstring injury, didn’t just turn up five minutes before kick-off and watch the match either.

The 34-year-old trained with the team in the build up to the game and gave the kids – with an average age of 19 years and 102 days – a pre-match pep talk.

‘I think he was desperate to get on’

According to Under-23 manager Neil Critchley, who was in charge with Jurgen Klopp staying away as the replay fell during the Premier League’s winter break, he was even eager to play.

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“He trained with us [the day before] and he asked whether he could come along. I think the answer is ‘Yes, of course you can’. It was very respectful to ask,” Critchley said.

“He was giving words of advice, he was getting right behind the players. He was vocal in the dressing room. He was animated. He was vocal behind me, I could hear him.

“I don’t think he’s available [fit] yet… but he was jumping up and down behind me so I think he was desperate to get on.”

Milner made his senior debut with Leeds at the age of 16, so knows what it is like to play on the big stage at a young age.

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After the match, he tweeted: “Outstanding performance from the boys, Critch and his staff & fantastic turn out from the fans.”

“He was genuinely delighted at how the boys performed and I can’t thank him enough,” added Critchley.

“He was buzzing. We’ve given him a game against Chelsea away to look forward to.”

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With Klopp likely to recall at least some of his senior players for the fifth-round tie against Chelsea, there’s every chance Milner will be in action at Stamford Bridge thanks to the efforts of the youngest line-up in Liverpool’s history.


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