Leeds United defender Danny Mills is not ready to give up his place in the Engla
Leeds United defender Danny Mills is not ready to give up his place in the England team without a fight, as he told TheFA.com...
Mills was a regular in the national side during last summer's thrilling World Cup in Korea and Japan, but following Gary Neville's return from injury, Mills has failed to feature in any of England's qualifying games for Euro 2004.
His only appearances have been two 45-minute spells in the friendlies against Portugal and Australia. However, Mills is hoping to convince Sven Goran Eriksson that he is the man to fill the right-back spot ahead of his Manchester United rival.
"It is always disappointing to lose your place," said Mills. "I thought I had done enough during the World Cup to hold my place for the qualifying games, but it wasn't to be.
"Gary Neville has been a great servant for club and country over many years. So once he returned, I wasn't too surprised. The manager has an ideal eleven in his head and when Gary was named in the squad, I always knew there was a chance he was going to play.
"It is the manager's choice which is something I have to live with. I have got to prove that I am a better player and deserve the place more than he does."
Mills will be keeping his fingers crossed that he can force his way back into the starting line-up for England's crucial qualifying game against Slovakia at the Riverside Stadium on June 11.
"I got my big chance because of Gary's injury, which was bad luck on his part, but it gave me an opportunity," says the former Charlton star.
"I thought I took that opportunity reasonably well. I just have to wait and take it again when it comes. All I can do is work hard and try to impress the manager.
Since returning from the Far East, Mills has been part of a Leeds side which has struggled in the Premiership all season.
The 25-year-old admits a poor campaign at club level has not helped his chances of establishing himself on the international stage.
He said: "It doesn't help when you are struggling down the wrong end of the table, not winning as many games as you should and not playing fantastic football. But these seasons happen every once in a while and you have to battle through them and hope to come out stronger for it in the end."
Nearly a year on from England's World Cup quarter-final defeat to champions Brazil, Mills reflects on the tournament with mixed emotions.
"It seems more than a life-time ago now. It has been a big season for us at Leeds and the World Cup seems a distant memory, all be it a very fond memory.
"It was disappointing we didn't get a little bit further in the tournament. It was very disheartening to lose to Brazil, even more so by the manner that we did."
On the plus side, Mills feels his impressive performances for England justified his inclusion in the squad, which had initially raised a few surprised eyebrows.
He says: "I thought I did reasonably well and came away with a good amount of credit, especially as I had so many sceptics going into the tournament. It was an experience I will never forget and a memory that I will cherish for a long time."
Hoping to follow in Mills' footsteps are Leeds team-mates Paul Robinson and striker Alan Smith, who are both on the fringes of the full England team.
Mills believes the Under-21 duo are destined to grace the big stage on a regular basis.
"I am sure it will not be long before Paul gets his chance," insists Mills. "Smithy was suspended for the last international, but hopefully he will be involved again in the summer. He has been great for us again this season and has worked his socks off for the team."
Another Leeds connection in the England side is former Elland Road favourite Rio Ferdinand.
Does Mills see the 24-year-old Manchester United defender as a future England skipper?
"He was captain at Leeds and was very good at it," he added. "But he is still very young. David Beckham has got the arm-band at the moment and behind him is Michael Owen, that is the way the current manager sees it. Both are two very young captains, so it would be very hard for Rio to break that circle."
Leeds United's remaining Premier League fixtures
v Arsenal (a), 4th May - 16.05
v Aston Villa (h), 11th May - 15.00