James Milner passed a rare and truly astounding career milestone when he featured off the bench for Liverpool in their 3-1 win against Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday.
The 36-year-old midfielder’s name on the teamsheet saw his initiation into the illustrious and thoroughly exclusive club of players who have made 600 appearances in the Premier League.
Indeed, the Reds veteran will become only the fourth member of the “600 Club” along with fellow grizzled veterans Frank Lampard (609 games), Ryan Giggs (632 games) and Gareth Barry (653), who has played more times in the Premier League than any other player in history.
Milner made both his senior first team and Premier League debut in November 2002 when he came off the bench for Leeds United in the last five minutes of a win over West Ham at the tender age of 16 years and 309 days, which made him the second-youngest player to appear in the Premier League at the time (though he’s not even in the top 10 these days!)
Twenty years have passed since that fateful afternoon at Upton Park and Milner played for Newcastle United (2004-2008) and Aston Villa 2008-2010) before he firmly established himself as a Premier League stalwart in winning the title three times — twice with Manchester City (2011-12, 2013-14) and once with Liverpool (2019-20.)
Here’s a look back at some of the most memorable moments to have occurred over Milner’s Premier League appearances, and if you’re interested in a recap of his best “boring” social media, then click here.
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1. Premier League debut
Milner made the first of his 600 Premier League appearances when he emerged from the dugout wearing the No. 38 jersey to replace winger Jason Wilcox for the final five minutes of Leeds’ 4-3 victory against West Ham in November 2002.
Leeds scored all four of their goals in the first half and yet still managed to weather a second-half rally from the Hammers while simultaneously blooding one of their brightest young academy graduates during the final stages of the game.
“I’m pretty sure most Leeds fans were thinking who’s this guy?!” 😂
James Milner reflects on 2⃣0⃣ years in the Premier League and making his debut for Leeds ️⚽️ pic.twitter.com/OUWUz4GVQI
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) November 3, 2022
2. First goal(s)
Milner’s first Premier League goal came in his fifth appearance for Leeds against Sunderland on Dec. 26, 2002. Having entered the fray as a 36th-minute substitute, Milner proceeded to notch his side’s equaliser in the 51st minute to become the youngest goal-scorer in Premier League history (16 years, 356 days.) His vital goal also paved the way for Leeds to fight back from a goal down to win 2-1 at the Stadium of Light.
Still yet to turn 17, Milner then found the net against Chelsea (Dec. 28, 2002) to score his second senior goal in the space of just two days in what proved to be a resolute 2-0 victory at Elland Road.
3. First Premier League title
After stints with Villa and Newcastle, Milner made his big move to Manchester City in 2011 in search of the first major honours of his career. The midfielder spent five seasons at the Etihad and won two Premier League titles.
Indeed, he didn’t have to wait long for the first to arrive as City pipped rivals Manchester United to win the league on goal difference on the final day of the 2011-12 campaign thanks to Sergio Aguero’s last-ditch heroics.
A second title followed in 2013-14, though Milner’s career at City came to an end the following season as, despite all the success he’d enjoyed, the versatile midfielder was rarely as central to the action as he’d like to be and decided to leave at the end of the 2014-15 campaign. A fresh challenge (with increased responsibility) awaited at Liverpool.
4. Joining the “500 Club”
Milner became the 13th player (and second youngest) to make 500 Premier League appearances when he turned out for Liverpool against Bournemouth in December 2018.
Indeed, the Reds’ veteran made his 500th Premier League appearance at the age of 32 years and 338 days, with Gareth Barry (32 years and 219 days) the only player to reach a fifth century of games at a younger age.
Milner was bestowed with a special plaque from the Premier League in testament to his achievement, as well as a pair of custom boots from his sponsors that were covered with the crests of all the teams he has represented in the top flight.
5. Being sent off by his former teacher
Milner quickly became a flexible and ultra-reliable member of the squad at Liverpool, though he also endured a bizarre quirk of fate in January 2019 when he suffered the ignominy of being sent off in a Premier League match by one of his former schoolteachers.
In what surely must have been a footballing first, Milner was red-carded by referee Jon Moss during Liverpool’s 4-3 win over Crystal Palace. It later transpired that Moss taught the young Milner P.E at junior school and a photo of the old Westbrook Lane Primary School football team even surfaced on social media to prove it.
photo evidence Moss as coach and Milner as captain pic.twitter.com/VhhYlRWvwR
— Foz (@chrisfozard) January 20, 2019
6. Historic title win with Liverpool
Perhaps the peak of Milner’s Premier League career came 18 years in when he helped Liverpool surge to the title in 2019-20, the club’s first league championship since 1989-90.
Milner played 22 times in the league (often as a utility sub across three or four different positions) and scored two goals as the Reds finally usurped Man City to get their hands on the trophy at the culmination of an elongated season marred by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As low-key and understated as ever, newly-crowned three-time Premier League champion Milner celebrated the momentous occasion with a humble bar of chocolate and a frothy coffee.