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Sep 6, 2009

Milner determined to win England starting place

After making his first appearance at Wembley as a senior international, James Milner has told ESPN Soccernet that his next objective is to stake a strong claim for inclusion in Fabio Capello's starting XI. The Aston Villa winger is England's most prolific Under-21 international, having amassed 46 appearances for the junior side, but in the early stages of the new season has made the breakthrough under Capello, winning two caps as a useful substitute in friendlies against Holland and Slovenia.

Milner was introduced at half-time of Saturday's 2-1 win at Wembley, ahead of club team-mate Ashley Young, and faces a real battle on his hands to command a regular place given that Steven Gerrard operates on the left flank and options for the right wing include Theo Walcott, Aaron Lennon, Shaun Wright-Phillips and David Beckham.

Capello appears to appreciate the enthusiasm and versatility offered by the Leeds academy product though and, having ticked off the box marked "home debut", Milner is now keen is to become an established figure in the Italian's squad.

"It was nice to get my first game at Wembley and get that first game out of the way, if you like," Milner told ESPN Soccernet. "To get on for half the game as well was obviously another learning curve, to get on and get the minutes up and learn as much as you can when you get on the field.

"Growing up you always want to play for England in World Cups and at Wembley, this is one small step for me. I have made a couple of appearances now and hopefully I can add to those and prove that I should stay in the squad and push for a place in the team."

Regarding his chances of representing his country at a World Cup finals next summer, Milner added: "It is too early to say, obviously we are not even there yet. We need to make sure that we finish the job against Croatia. Hopefully we can do it on Wednesday."

England will qualify for the World Cup finals in South Africa with a victory against Croatia and Capello's side prepared for their date with destiny with a not-entirely-convincing win over Slovenia at Wembley. Fluid in attack but static at the back, England will have to improve on Wednesday night.

"It is a World Cup qualifier so obviously it is going to be a slightly different game," Milner said. "They [Croatia] are obviously a very strong team and maybe a step up from today [Saturday], but today they were a good side as well. It was a good test and good preparation and there is stuff we can look at that we can hopefully do better on Wednesday.

"We knew it was going to be a tough game [against Slovenia] and it was. They defend with a lot of players behind the ball, they are very solid and break very quickly with pace. We knew it was going to be a good test and we are pleased to come away with the result. We didn't play as well as we could but hopefully we can get a clean sheet on Wednesday."

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