O'Neill - Milner role no gamble

Villa boss feels England will benefit from versatility

Milner: Can play anywhere

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Martin O'Neill does not believe he is damaging James Milner's England hopes by playing the Aston Villa winger in central midfield.

The return from injury of Stewart Downing has seen Milner start Villa's last three matches in the centre of midfielder alongside captain Stiliyan Petrov.

Villa boss O'Neill insists it has not been a gamble to play Milner in that role, despite the 23-year-old having established himself as a wide-man during his career.

And O'Neill is also confident that Milner's ability to operate in a variety of positions will boost his prospects of claiming a place in England coach Fabio Capello's World Cup squad.

Very encouraging

O'Neill said: "I said to James in the summer that he could play in central midfield.

"We talked about it and, for me, it was not as big a gamble as you think because I had watched him train and thought he was capable of doing that.

"His performances in there have been very encouraging. He is a very good player. He came essentially as a wide right player who could also play wide left.

"It is only when you watch him train, you feel he is capable of playing in a few other positions. He is very comfortable at doing that.

"We are all pleased with the development of him as a player and his ability to play in a number of positions would enhance his credentials for England rather than the other way around.

"I don't think for one second I am doing him a disservice in terms of England. I don't think James does either.

"When the squad is eventually picked, there will be room for one or two 'play-anywhere' players.

"Eventually, when everyone settles down, people would like to play in their proper positions. But James has distinguished himself in positions you probably wouldn't have thought probable some time ago."