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Graeme Souness offers James Milner apology 18 years after Newcastle incident

Dan Hargraves

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Graeme Souness offers James Milner apology 18 years after Newcastle incident

Graeme Souness has offered Liverpool veteran James Milner an apology 18 years after the former Newcastle United manager sent a then-teenage Milner on loan to Aston Villa.

A year into his managerial spell at St.James' Park, Souness opted to send 19-year-old Milner out on loan having rarely played the midfielder the previous campaign.

The ex-Magpies boss emphasised that he wanted a team full of experience, hence why he wasn't playing the teenager who has gone on to win three Premier League titles, two FA Cups and a Champions League during spells at Manchester City and Liverpool.

Souness' decision at the time received criticism, to which the then-manager defended himself, famously saying, 'you won't win the league with James Milners'.

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Now, 18 years on, with Milner set to leave Anfield as a free agent and Souness leaving Sky Sports after being a long-serving pundit, the Scotsman has issued an apology to his former player.

Writing in his Daily Mail column, the 70-year-old said: “I was discussing leadership with Simon Jordan. James Milner was one of those I named as a leader I would want in my dressing room. At Newcastle, I knew him as a young boy.

"He has matured into a professional you can bet is a ten out of ten around the dressing room. He was upset with me many years ago at Newcastle when I said that ‘you won’t win the league with James Milners’ and he took that as me saying he wasn’t good enough.

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“I was trying to say that you needed men. He was only 19 at the time. I apologised to him for that and I hope he’s forgiven me. You can never have enough James Milners in the dressing room. He makes other players turn up.”

Although it has taken Souness nearly two decades to publicly apologise to Milner for his comments, it appears the midfielder has already moved on. Having been asked about the incident in an interview with FourFourTwo in 2018, the Englishman made it clear he holds no grudge.

“I think it was more like, ‘You don’t win anything with a team of James Milners’. Newcastle was tough – the manager who’d signed me, Bobby Robson, got sacked three games into the season, so a new manager arrived and I ended up going on loan again, to Aston Villa," he said.

James Milner in action for Liverpool against Man City. Image: Alamy
James Milner in action for Liverpool against Man City. Image: Alamy
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“I think the first time I finished a season with the same manager who started it was Martin O’Neill at Villa, probably five seasons into my career. When someone has an opinion, even if it ends up misquoted, people jump on it.

"But as a player you love the chance to shut people up. Any time that you’re criticised, it drives you on and you try to prove people wrong. That’s what I did in that part of my career.

“But I get on with Graeme – there’s no beef. When I won the Premier League title at Manchester City, he was covering the game and he came over to congratulate me.”

Milner is currently expected to move to Brighton as a free agent over the summer whilst Souness is approaching the end of his tenure at Sky Sports.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Graeme Souness, James Milner, Newcastle United, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Premier League

Dan Hargraves
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