JAMES Milner has attempted to put Aston Villa’s downturn in form and fortunes into perspective by contrasting it with the lowest point in his career.
Milner has been bitterly disappointed by Villa’s fall from the Champions League qualification spots following their failure to win any of the past five matches.
However, the former Leeds United youngster is able to keep Villa’s struggles in context following his difficult experiences at his boyhood club five years ago.
Milner was a member of the Elland Road dressing room during the Yorkshire club’s depressing demise following gross financial mismanagement.
Leeds imploded and were relegated in 2004 after their gamble of budgeting to repay huge loans with Champions League proceeds backfired when they failed to qualify for the lucrative European competition.
“It wasn’t an easy time to be at the club and obviously coming through, playing two seasons and being relegated is one of the worst things you can go through in your career,” Milner said.
“It was my hometown club and I’d gone to watch them for years before with a season ticket so it was hard to take.
“But it’s obviously stood me in good stead now and it’s so important that you learn from it.
“There always seemed to be things going on off the field and that was obviously tough as well.
“The financial side of the club was in trouble, there were things going on like the court case a few years before.
“It’s tough, especially as a young player, but I’ve always just concentrated on the football, that’s all you can do rather than worry about other things.”
Villa’s sequence of four defeats and one draw has jeopardised Martin O’Neill’s team’s chances of pipping Arsenal to fourth spot and a Champions League place.
However, having experienced behind-the-scenes turmoil at Leeds and Newcastle United, Milner finds it easier than most to look for positives at Villa Park.
Before Sunday’s match at Manchester United the winger insists there are a multitude of reasons to be cheerful, not least the stability in the corridors of power.
Milner maintains that he is excited to be involved in the challenge for fourth place rather than worrying that Villa have lost their impetus at the worst possible time.
“I’ve known some tough times at other clubs and that’s maybe why I feel happy here at Aston Villa at the moment. Just the stability of the club from top to bottom,” he added. “It’s hard to play your best football when there’s manager changes and the club’s in financial difficulties. Until you get that stability you’re never going to reach your full potential.
“It’s taken me a while to get that stability and now I’m enjoying playing under a great manager and for a great team. It’s nice to be looking at the top four results and it affecting us rather than looking down at the bottom and who’s below you. We’re pleased where we are at the moment and hopefully we can keep improving and take this chance that we have.”