Future Premier League star helps Leeds sink Chelsea: On this day in 2002
By Matt Farr
Liverpool midfielder James Milner is currently one of the most experienced players in the Premier League, having made well over 400 appearances in the competition.
The 30-year-old has represented five different clubs at top-flight level during a 15-year career, and it all began at Leeds.
The tenacious midfielder rose to prominence at Elland Road, becoming the Premier League’s youngest ever goalscorer.
On this day in 2002, a goal from a 16-year-old Milner helped Leeds record a memorable 2-0 victory over title-hungry Chelsea.
It was Milner’s second goal in the space of three days, having earlier scored the opener in the win over Sunderland, and it set Leeds on their way to a famous victory.
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Defender Jonathan Woodgate had put Leeds in front in the 30th-minute, before Milner doubled their lead before half-time. At that point, there was no way back for a Chelsea side boasting the likes of Gianfranco Zola, Marcel Desailly and Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink, as well as manager Claudio Ranieri.
Milner had not started the game, replacing the injured Harry Kewell just after Woodgate’s opener, but stamped his authority on the game with his superbly-taken individual effort.
He picked up Mark Viduka’s pass, before beating his man and firing a low shot past goalkeeper Ed de Goey. The goal proved that he really was to be star in the making.
From then on, Milner began to establish himself as a useful first-team player under Terry Venables, and he went on to make 22 appearances in all competitions that season – 17 times a substitute in the league.
After a brief loan stint with Swindon in 2003, Milner returned to Leeds a more experienced figure, and once again put his stamp on the first-team setup.
He continued to play a major role as Leeds in the Premier League the following season, making 32 appearances in all competitions; but the club were hit by financial problems and were relegated from the top-flight.
As a result, speculation grew over Milner’s long-term future at Elland Road, and it was announced in July 2004 that Milner was to join Newcastle.
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