Monday 23 October 2017

Milner hungry to bounce back

John Curtis

James Milner insists the hunger is greater than ever among the Aston Villa players to return to Wembley in the FA Cup as they look to bounce back from their Carling Cup final misery.

Milner admits it was hard to take being beaten by Manchester United after he had given Villa the lead from the penalty spot in a controversial incident where Nemanja Vidic escaped being sent off after bringing down Gabriel Agbonlahor. But there has been no time to wallow in self pity for Milner, who featured as a substitute in England's midweek international win over Egypt at the same stadium.

Now he will be looking to help Martin O'Neill's side overcome giant-killers Reading, who have already knocked out Liverpool and Burnley, in today's away quarter-final meeting. "I was massively disappointed. The pain was as bad as when I was relegated with Leeds," said Milner.

"But, with having a game on Wednesday, I had to refocus straight away and look forward to the next game (for England). If I had been back at the club, I would have had a full week to think about the final a lot more and would have been going over and over the game. But having another big game two days later, and being in a different environment with the England players, helped to refocus the mind.

"Those experiences, like the one in last weekend's final, have to make you stronger as a footballer. We had great support on the day and it was disappointing not to win for ourselves, for the club and for them as well. But it has made us even more hungry -- if that was possible -- to get back to Wembley for the FA Cup final.

"You want to do as well you can in any cup competition, but maybe there is an extra incentive now to go again and make it second time lucky. When you've tasted that sort of occasion as a loser, you want to taste it as a winner.

"We have some big games coming up, we're still challenging for fourth spot in the Premier League and an FA Cup final, and hopefully it can be a successful season."

Villa boss Martin O'Neill will assess the fitness of his players following their return from international duty before naming his side. But with Emile Heskey, Stephen Warnock and Stewart Downing not featuring for England, they should be fresh to face the Royals.

Reading v Aston Villa,

ITV, Setanta 1.45

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