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Unsettled Milner named in Villa squad for season opener

Aston Villa caretaker boss Kevin MacDonald has taken the surprising step of naming James Milner in his squad to face West Ham on Saturday. There is intense speculation that the midfielder is close to securing a switch to Premier League rivals Manchester City.

It was therefore speculated that the 24 year old, formerly of Leeds and Newcastle, would not be included in Villa's squad while his future remained uncertain.

MacDonald said: "The latest about Milner is that talks are still ongoing. Nothing can be done today in terms of him being signed in time to play tomorrow.

"James has been put in the squad and will be available to play for Aston Villa against West Ham. I didn't have to think hard about putting James in the squad.

"It was a pretty straightforward decision for me. You need to get your best players on the pitch. James is one of our best players.

"James would also have the mental strength to deal with it if the crowd reaction is hostile. He is a tough lad.

"I would expect him not to let it affect him and he is very much a team player."

MacDonald is hoping that the Villa crowd will not turn on Milner if he plays, despite the possible move to City.

"I hope the fans don't get on his back," he added.

"I hope they get behind him and say 'whatever happens, he is playing for us today' and look what he has done for us over the previous couple of years.

"James is one of the fittest players I've come across in my life - and I've come across some very, very fit ones.

"The amount of work and running he has done in training would tell me he would have no problems if he was selected to start."

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