James Milner reveals why he rejected Gareth Southgate's England recall

James Milner reveals the reason why he once rejected an offer from England manager Gareth Southgate to come out of international retirement… after the Brighton midfielder chose to step back from the national side in 2016

  • James Milner retired from international football in 2016, after making 61 caps
  • England boss Gareth Southgate tried to coax the midfielder out of retirement 
  • On a packed train, how DO you ask a celebrity to move from a seat you have reserved? It’s All Kicking Off 

James Milner has revealed the reason why he chose to reject an England recall from Gareth Southgate in 2016 after having announced his retirement from international football. 

The Brighton midfielder, who amassed 61 England caps during his career, decided to step back from international football in 2016 after talks with then-manager Sam Allardyce, who had told him he would be a back-up player in the squad. 

His retirement came after the 37-year-old was a part of England’s Euro 2016 squad, that were knocked out of the competition in the round of 16 by Iceland, with Milner playing just three minutes at the tournament. 

Back then, the former Liverpool midfielder admitted that he wanted to retire from international football to allow younger players to rise through the ranks. 

But Southgate, who took over from Allardyce in September of that year, tried to coax the midfielder out of retirement. 

James Milner has opened up on how he once rejected an offer from Gareth Southgate to come out of international retirement

Milner decided to retire from international duty back in 2016, a month before the England boss was appointed the side’s manager, and Southgate tried to coax Milner to play for his side


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‘Southgate rang me and said “I want you back, I think you’d play a big part for us, [a] leader” and stuff like that,’ Milner told the High Performance Podcast. 

Milner had made his decision to resign from international duty just a month before Southgate was appointed manager. 

‘My feeling was that if he [Southgate] had been the next England manager in six weeks before and he said what he said [then] I’d have definitely carried on, 100 per cent.

‘But at that point I had retired and I feel like when you do something you fully commit to it 100 per cent and I just felt well how does it look me retiring, now I’m not retiring, changing it on the wind of an opinion.

‘It just felt like the right thing that I’d done it, even though if he had been the manager (after Roy Hodgson) I’d have carried on playing.’

Milner, who was 30 years old at the time, could have potentially continued to feature for England, with the Three Lions subsequently turning their attention to the 2018 World Cup. 

Milner’s decision to retire from international duty came after former England boss Sam Allardyce had reportedly told him he would be a back-up player

At the time, the former Liverpool midfielder admitted that he would resign to allow emerging England stars to take his place in the squad

The 37-year-old, who now plays for Brighton, earned 61 caps for England, scoring one goal 

Having made his international debut back in 2009 in a 2-2 draw against the Netherlands, the former Leeds United star would go on to play in two World Cups and two European Championships, scoring one goal during his international career.

Milner had moved from Manchester City to Liverpool just one year before his retirement from international football and subsequently went on to play 332 games with the Merseyside outfit, scoring 26 goals across all competitions. 

During the podcast, Milner also spoke out on a heated altercation he had with Jurgen Klopp in the Liverpool dressing room, admitting he once told the manager to ‘shut the f*** up’.

Despite that, he’d go on to win the Premier League and Champions League with the Reds, before moving to Brighton as a free agent last summer. 


It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football, launching with a preview show today and every week this season.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube , Apple Music and Spotify

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