Fabian Delph intends to continue steadily taking James Milner’s path to the Aston Villa first team by following his fellow Yorkshire midfielder’s shining example.
Delph could return to Martin O’Neill’s starting line-up on Sunday with the manager contemplating freshening Villa up for the FA Cup quarter-final at Reading.
The England Under-21 international was left on the substitutes bench for last weekend’s Carling Cup final defeat to Manchester United at Wembley.
And Delph has had to adopt a patient approach and settle for occasional first team appearance since signing from Leeds United for £6 million last summer.
However, the 20-year-old insists that while he waits for his chance, he has the perfect role model to learn from in fellow former Elland Road youth-teamer Milner.
“I seem to have been here longer than I have because I was made to feel at home right from the start – and having James around has been a big help,” said Delph.
“Like me, he’s a Yorkshireman and a Leeds fan. Having someone from the same area helped me settle in.
“I only met him when I came here but I knew all about him from what he has achieved.
“He’s also a big name among the Leeds coaching staff, who tell the young players up there how professional he was when he was at Elland Road.
“They speak very highly of him so I was keen to get to know him.
“We get on really well, although that’s the case with all the team, to be honest.
“They have all helped me out in my first few months here.
“Things are going well and hopefully I can come back stronger next season and play more games.”
Since his successful conversion from a winger to a central midfielder, Milner has been one of the reasons why Delph has found it difficult to break into Villa’s starting line-up.
However, Milner puts his own form down to the competition for places in the claret and blue squad, with players like Delph putting him under pressure to perform each week.
“We’ve got a great squad with a lot of people waiting to come in and Fabian adds to that,” said Milner.
“He is a great player with a big future ahead of him.”
Sunday’s trip to the Madejski Stadium is Villa’s first FA Cup quarter-final since they were runners-up to Chelsea in 2000. Victory would secure a Wembley semi-final in April.