O'Neill tips Milner for England role

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Martin O'Neill has challenged Aston Villa winger James Milner to repeat his form of this season and force his way into Fabio Capello's squad for the 2010 World Cup.

Milner became Villa's record signing when he made the £12million switch from Newcastle in August, but the England Under-21 player has not been affected by the price tag and has played a significant role in Villa's push for a European spot.

O'Neill said: "James has done splendidly in a role which is really physically demanding. Can he challenge for the World Cup squad? I don't see why not and that should be his driving ambition, to play well for us to get himself into that squad."

He added: "You are expected to get up the pitch, support and create and score the occasional goal and you are also expected to get back and be the first line of defence.

"But he has got a big heart and the work he has done in getting back and covering has been terrific. I think he will be all the better for this season.

"In the last couple of games, he has looked a little tired. I am not surprised because the season catches up with you. He has done fantastically well."

O'Neill added: "But, if the comments I hear and read are correct, I think the England manager likes James - and it is up to him to go and show it."

O'Neill believes Capello will take time to judge Milner and any other candidates for the finals in South Africa over a concerted period rather than just one-off games.

He said: "What I don't want James and other players to do is to put themselves under unnecessary pressure next season by being at a game where everyone knows that the England manager is there and think it might be make or break.

"I would rather they be judged over a three, four, five-month period rather than one particular game where people think 'this is it' if Capello is making the choice between two or three wide right-hand side players. But I think the England manager is too experienced to do that."

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James Milner
Premier League
Aston Villa

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