Milner dismisses Ireland 'mercenary' talk at Eastlands
THEIR first public pronouncements were as contrasting as their debuts and although James Milner did not feel spurred to answer Stephen Ireland's criticisms of Manchester City directly, he was quick to defend his new team-mates against any accusations of a lack of unity.
As he was speaking for the first time as an Aston Villa player last week, Ireland spoke expansively about what has become an accepted view of the mercenary City, from the first-teamers with no loyalty, the uncommunicative manager and the youth-team players with big watches.
Ireland's attack came before his new team were humiliated 6-0 at Newcastle, a day before Milner, who had up until that point restricted himself to discussing where he might play on the club's website, was outstanding in Monday's 3-0 dismantling of Liverpool.
While the financial bonuses of being signed by the richest club in the world for £26m cannot be ignored, Milner also sees the opportunity of silverware in a career that has already seen plenty of strife at Leeds and Newcastle.
For all of the uncertainty that still surrounds the squad, and the unlikelihood that Milner would say anything else, he maintains that there is a togetherness to Roberto Mancini's group of players.
"I haven't been here long but the team spirit's fantastic," Milner said. "They're a close bunch of lads and you just want to get in there and be part of it, get on with the football. No matter what else is being said outside the club we want to make sure they're talking about us winning trophies."
Milner has already been the focal point of the battle for Premier League survival at his hometown club Leeds, and has experienced life in the specific glare of Newcastle. He is, however, adamant that he will treat playing for City in exactly the same way.
Neutrals will see anything other than a sustained challenge for the Premier League title as failure, after the club dominated another transfer window. But while Milner does not expect patience from the paying public, he feels that City will not be at their best for a number of months.
"I'm desperate to be successful as quickly as possible. Things take time for any new players at a new club. It does take time to play your best football but the quicker you can do it, the easier the transition.
"The first thing is to get into Europe. We all want to get into the Champions League but at this moment we just want to get off to a good start.
"The only thing I can control is playing football. It's a big price tag and a big club with a lot of good players. The pressure is there and that's what you want to thrive on, playing with the best players under pressure. It's a club moving forward in a very fast way. We know where we want to get and whether that's going to be this season or the season after we want to get right up there."
Mancini claims Robinho has "two or three" options after turning down Fenerbahce and City remain hopeful that the Brazilian will find a new club before next week's transfer deadline. The former Real Madrid forward has not featured since returning from a loan spell with Santos.
"There are six more days and Robinho has two or three options and he must choose," Mancini said. "I have a good relationship with Robinho but I think he wants to leave because he wants to try to play in Italy, or Turkey, or go back to Spain."
The Italian will also allow Roque Santa Cruz to join Lazio and accepts that he cannot stand in the way of goalkeeper Shay Given's desire for first-team football but he has also revealed that Jo is likely to be part of his plans this season.
The Brazilian joined for £18m and scored one goal before being loaned to Everton on two occasions, as well as Galatasary.
"I have seen Jo in these two months and I think he's a good player," Mancini said. "I saw him when he played for CSKA, I played against him with Inter and he's a good striker." (© Daily Telegraph, London)