James Milner admits it will mean everything to him to lead England out at Wembley for the first time when he captains the side against Holland on Tuesday night.
The Liverpool midfielder, with 57 caps to his name, steps in with skipper Wayne Rooney out injured and vice-captain Gary Cahill set to be on the bench having played in Saturday’s win over Germany.
The Football Association said on Monday afternoon that Milner, 30, will wear the armband instead having last played in October’s 2-0 win at home to Estonia.
And the two-time Barclays Premier League winner, who on Sunday said he would talk to manager Roy Hodgson after the European Championships and would consider walking away from the international scene were he to be relegated to the role as a bit-part player, believes captaining is something he will never forget.
Asked what it would mean to him to lead out the Three Lions, Milner said: “Everything. Obviously growing up you are desperate to pull on that England shirt and you are scoring goals for England at Wembley in your back garden and the chance to lead out your country is a massive honour and something you never forget.”
Milner made his debut against Holland almost seven years ago and is the only member of the current squad surviving from that 2-2 draw in Amsterdam.
He is now considered an elder statesmen on the international scene and is ready to help through the next batch of young players, having watched from the bench as they stormed back from two goals down to win in Berlin.
When asked if he saw his role as a wise, old head Milner replied: “Yes, unfortunately!”
“I’m at that stage now and it is important we set those examples, the like of me, Gaz, Harty, Wayne and Jags – when you see how much quality there is coming through, it is important we help them along as much as we can.
“It is a big step up playing for England an all that comes with it, the better environment we can make for those guys the easier it will be for them to pull on the England shirt and perform at this level.”
Hodgson revealed changes to his line-up for the Holland game would be limited and not wholesale.
Milner will lead his country in his 58th appearance for England and Hodgson said he is the right fit for the current side.
“As far as I’m concerned we’ve always known that James is a very good midfield player in central areas, capable of playing wide but also central areas,” Hodgson told a press conference.
“The way we’re trying to play at the moment and the way that Liverpool play, that’s right up his street.
“That’s the type of football he plays and it’s great he’s got the opportunity tomorrow to play in a position he’s very comfortable in – but also to do it as captain of his country.”