James Milner’s remarkable consistency at the highest level has seen the midfielder continue to move up the list of the Premier League’s record appearance makers, the Liverpool star now just one game shy of entering the all-time top five.
The veteran may have to wait for his landmark appearance as football pauses amid the coronavirus epidemic, but ahead of the achievement we’ve decided to profile Milner and those ahead of him in the rankings.
Here are the rankings of the six highest appearance makers in Premier League history:
James Milner – 534 appearances
The soon-to-be man of the moment, Milner burst onto the scene as a teenage talent at Leeds United, becoming the second-youngest player in Premier League history in 2002 before eclipsing Wayne Rooney as the division’s youngest goalscorer on Boxing Day of that year.
Leeds’ financial difficulties resulted in a move to Newcastle before later joining Aston Villa, Milner named as the PFA Young Player of the Year in 2010 to earn a big-money move to Manchester City.
Milner’s game-time proved limited at the Etihad as he struggled to establish himself as an automatic starter, however, a five-year spell delivered a wealth of silverware including two league titles.
Liverpool would come calling in the summer of 2015 and Milner made the move to Merseyside on a free transfer, a move that ranks amongst the club’s greatest ever Bosman captures after five seasons of unwavering consistency.
Instantly installed as vice-captain, Milner has proven an influential dressing room figure in a side that has won the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup under Jurgen Klopp.
Gary Speed – 535 appearances
The former Welsh international was a midfielder of the highest quality and a popular figure at several top-flight clubs, Speed enjoying spells at Leeds, Everton, Newcastle, Bolton and Sheffield United.
Having helped Leeds to the league title in the final season before the rebranded Premier League, Speed was named in the PFA Team of the Year during the competition’s inaugural season.
The midfielder proved to be a model of consistency throughout his 535 top-flight appearances – a record at the time of his retirement – possessing a sweet left foot and an ability to arrive into the box and influence proceedings with vital goals.
Speed’s professionalism saw him play past his 40th birthday and he captained several of his sides on occasion, his leadership qualities leading to him moving into management with the Wales national team in 2010.
Speed tragically took his own life in 2011 at the age of just 42, a devastating loss of both a great man and true Premier League legend.
David James – 572 appearances
A goalkeeper always capable of producing jaw-dropping moments, both for the right and wrong reasons.
James emerged at Watford and following a series of impressive performances in the second tier, made the move to Liverpool where he enjoyed mixed fortunes.
Nicknamed ‘Calamity James’ for his tendency to produce high-profile errors, the goalkeeper would nonetheless spend seven seasons on Merseyside and make over 200 Premier League appearances.
Further spells at the likes of Aston Villa, West Ham, Manchester City and Portsmouth followed, James winning the FA Cup with the latter in 2008 in addition to earning 53 caps for England.
Despite his collection of clangers James’ status as the third player to reach 500 Premier League appearances is a testament to his quality, as are his 169 clean sheets – the second highest in the division’s history behind former Arsenal and Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Oh yeah, and his cameo up front for Man City remains one of the funniest moments in Premier League history…
Frank Lampard – 609 appearances
One of the greatest midfielders of the Premier League era, Frank Lampard’s incredible achievements are highlighted by his presence amongst many of the all-time records.
The fifth-highest goalscorer in the division’s history – a remarkable feat for a central midfield player – only two players have also made more than Lampard’s 609 Premier League appearances.
Lampard came through the academy ranks at West Ham, but it would be across the capital at London rivals Chelsea where he developed into a star of English football, winning three league titles amongst a host of major honours in addition to becoming the Blues’ all-time record goalscorer.
Lampard later spent a brief loan spell at Manchester City after moving to MLS side New York City, retiring as one of the most iconic Premier League players of all-time.
Ryan Giggs – 632 appearances
The career of Ryan Giggs is one unlikely to ever be matched in terms of either longevity or success at the very highest level.
Manchester United’s dominance of the Premier League era was centred around a core contingent of home-grown talents, perhaps none more influential than their flying Welsh winger.
Giggs burst onto the scene as a teenager and remained at Old Trafford throughout an incredible career that saw him play past his 40th birthday, his 13 league titles an achievement many feel will never be surpassed.
Two Champions League titles would also be added to his 34 trophies won, Giggs holding the all-time record for United appearances – 632 of which came in the Premier League.
Only one player has made more Premier League appearances than the Welshman, whilst no player in the division’s history can better his record of 162 assists.
Gareth Barry – 653 appearances
Gareth Barry may be playing his football in the second tier at present, though the fact the midfielder has continued his career past his 39th birthday is a testament to his consistency and dedication to the sport.
Barry began his career at Aston Villa and spent over a decade at the Midlands club, his left foot offering balance and his versatility evident as he switched between a variety of roles in both defence and midfield.
An understated presence, Barry joined Manchester City in 2011 after 365 league appearances for Villa, winning both the FA Cup and Premier League as the Etihad club emerged as a contender for English football’s biggest prizes.
The midfielder, capped 53 times by England, later enjoyed an impressive four-year spell at Everton, being named as the club’s Player of the Season after a fine campaign during the 2015/16 season.
His record appearance came in the colours of West Brom almost three years ago, where he remains in Slaven Bilic’s promotion-chasing squad after their drop into the Championship in 2018.