GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - Wednesday, July 31, 2019: Liverpool's James Milner during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Olympique Lyonnais at Stade de Genève. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Neil Critchley reveals James Milner’s role in Liverpool’s youth success

James Milner was not expected at Anfield as the senior squad took the night off, but his influence was vital as Liverpool beat Shrewsbury in the FA Cup.

Jurgen Klopp has, famously now, told his players to spend the winter break recharging, and most of his first team have departed for mid-season holidays.

Not Milner, though, with the vice-captain behind the substitutes’ bench as the young Reds sealed a 1-0 win over Shrewsbury to book a place in the fifth round.

The 34-year-old is back from a hamstring injury suffered in the third-round win over Everton, and joined the likes of Ben Winterbottom, Liam Coyle and Dal Varesanovic as he watched Neil Critchley‘s academy side triumph.

Remarkably, Critchley told reporters after the game that Milner had in fact joined training for the game the previous day, and asked his permission to attend at Anfield.

“He trained with us yesterday and he asked whether he could come along. It was like, ‘yeah, I think the answer’s yes to that one. Of course you can’,” the stand-in manager explained.

“It was very respectful to ask, and then he said ‘can I come in the dressing room’ and you’re thinking ‘what do you think? Of course’.

“To have someone like him, obviously he’s achieved so much in the game but that’s because of who he is, and he was giving words of advice to the players.

“He was getting right behind the players, he was vocal in the dressing room, he was animated behind me, I could hear him.

“And he was genuinely delighted with how the boys performed, and I can’t thank him enough for being here tonight.”

It is a testament to Milner’s professionalism that he forwent a prospective holiday to stay on Merseyside and finish his rehabilitation ahead of the trip to Norwich on February 15.

And it is a testament to his character that he joined the young Reds on such a big night for them, with his influence in the dressing room no doubt key.

On an evening when Liverpool named their youngest-ever side, and their youngest-ever captain in Curtis Jones, it was warming that their oldest outfield player was on hand to cheer them on.