With Manchester City travelling to Aston Villa for Saturday’s Premier League clash, Blues midfielder James Milner has spoken in fond terms of the time he spent with the midlands club.
Milner first joined Villa from Newcastle United in September 2005 on a season-long loan, scoring three goals in 33 total appearances to establish himself as a fan-favourite, but the club’s efforts to make the move permanent came up short.
That was not the last Villa Park would see of him, however, as the former Leeds United prospect would later make a £12 million return in August 2008, before going on to net 17 times in 88 games over the next two seasons under Martin O’Neill.
Breaking into the England setup over that period, as well as moving into his now-favoured central midfield role, Milner’s fine form saw Villa powerless to prevent his £26 million departure to Manchester in August 2010, but the Three Lions international has paid tribute to the club ahead of the weekend’s fixture.
‘I loved every minute of my time there.’ He was quoted on Villa’s official website.
‘I've been very impressed with Villa's form. They've had a great start to the season and it's been good to see them up near the top. Hopefully they can continue to do well.
‘The fans were great to me and we were unfortunate not to win a trophy and get into the Champions League.
‘I can't thank them enough for what they did for me.’
Milner’s future at City has been the subject of much speculation since the summer, but the 28-year-old insists that he’s more than content with life at the Etihad Stadium after a recent run of first-team starts.
‘I didn't play too many games at the start of the campaign, but now I've played a few in a row,’ he said.
‘The team comes first. You have your favourite position and you want to play there but you go wherever the manager asks you to go.
‘He wants the players to have freedom and create things. He wants us to go forward and play an exciting brand of football.’