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By ESPN Staff
Feb 10, 2009

Milner ready to make the step up with England

James Milner intends to prove he can cut it in the senior England squad if handed a first full cap against Spain on Wednesday night.

The midfielder, 23, holds the record of 36 appearances at Under-21 level, but is now very much in the thoughts of England coach Fabio Capello for the World Cup qualifying campaign after a superb season with Aston Villa.

Milner, who came through the youth ranks at Leeds and also had a spell at Newcastle, feels he is now a much more rounded player under the guidance of Villa boss Martin O'Neill and intends to show that at the highest level.

"You want to make that step up - and sooner rather than later,'' he said. "But it is still up to me to prove the England manager right and show I should be in this squad. Hopefully I can keep on improving now.

"It is about believing in your ability, putting in performances and proving you are good enough to be here. You have to keep working hard and learning, which I am doing every day at my club.''

Milner enjoyed the experience of training alongside David Beckham, who is in line to equal Bobby Moore's record of 108 caps for an England outfield player.

"Just to be in the squad with players like that is great, it is another step for me,'' he said. "David is a world-class player who has been doing it at this level for years.

"You watch them and learn from them as well, but you have to prove you are good enough to stay in and do what you are here to do.''

Milner shot to prominence as a 16-year-old with Leeds and became the youngest goalscorer in the Premier League on Boxing Day 2002.

However, with the Yorkshire club in decline from their halcyon days as one-time European challengers, Milner was eventually sold to Newcastle in July 2004 following relegation.

The switch to St James' Park, though, failed to turn into a dream move with the club another undergoing an uncertain time behind the scenes and, following a loan spell, Milner eventually joined Villa last summer for £12million.

Under the guidance of O'Neill, the young midfielder has gone from strength to strength in a squad which has broken into the top four of the Barclays Premier League and also includes the likes of fellow England internationals Gareth Barry, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Ashley Young and new signing Emile Heskey.

Milner is in no doubt of the impact his switch to Villa Park has had.

"It has helped massively to be at a settled club,'' he said. "At the clubs I have been at before there has been a bit of distraction off the field, changing managers and that, which does not help.

"Moving to Aston Villa, the set-up is very good. From the top right the way through. That helps you play your best football because you don't have to worry about anything else.''

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