Stewart Downing

Stewart Downing
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Stewart Downing

Current Club: Middlesbrough.

Previous Clubs: West Ham United, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough.

Loan Club: Sunderland.

International: England 35 caps.

Downing's career has been extremely mixed, a hero at Boro, after graduating from the youth ranks at the club, he moved onto Villa, with some success, then Liverpool, where he was a flop, to West Ham, where he moved to a new position due to being poor in his usual left wing position, then back to Boro and hero worship, though little return from him. Throughout his career he has shown himself to be a very average left winger, with decent delivery, but a lack of real pace and skill to beat his man to create space for a delivery.

Sam Allardyce saw that he was not the answer on the left and gave him a free role in the centre, so that he did not need to have pace and skill, just a decent range of passing to create chances. There he played the best football of his indifferent career, but it was short-lived and Downing was soon surplus to requirements. Boro, in need of a lift, took a chance and made him a big offer to return home and lead the team to the 'promised land' of the Premier League. Sure enough, Downing was part of the team that won promotion to the Prem that year.

However there were issues behind the scenes at Boro that Downing was involved in. They led to Aitor Karanka walking out on the club and having to be persuaded to return. The issues were not fully resolved and reared their head once again in the Premier League, leading to Karanka's sacking a year later. Due to this, I had wondered if Downing's play was affected by the issues between himself and Karanka, but nothing changed following the dismissal.

Downing always seemed a bit languid and lacking in effort, even on his best days, he was very one-paced, with no real burst of pace to escape full backs. Now though, it has gone beyond languid to lackadaisical, there is a real lack of drive and desire in his play. Particularly in the final match of the season against Liverpool, when the left back, nominally playing behind Downing, George Friend, was getting forward to try and create something, looked round for a pass and Downing was still strolling around in the left back area, offering him absolutely no support.

You would expect a player that is playing for the team he claims to support, against a former team in particular, would be putting everything in, giving it 100%, but there was no urgency and little effort in his performance. It was hard to tell if he even broke sweat or not. Downing looked like a player coming to the end of his career and just gradually winding down towards the end.

On his best days, Downing has good vision to see a pass or cross and the quality in his left foot to play the ball. He can deliver without needing to beat his man, just needs a half yard of space to put it in. Most of his career was on the left or right wing, but he was able to cover at left back, though Downing actually played the best football of his career in the centre, either at Villa as a central midfielder or at West Ham at the point of a diamond. He is tall, strong and can tackle. Sadly Downing never made the most of his talents throughout his career, he was always just doing enough to get picked, rather than trying to be the best he could be.

It is a tale of what could have been with Downing, as he had the potential to be so much more. When he burst on the scene as a youngster at Boro, there was a real potential to be a top class player. Sadly he never really grew as a player, all the same weaknesses to his game have stayed, his strengths have not grown. Downing has simply not improved as a player. You have to wonder how much his love of DJ-ing, Downing has done sets in local clubs and places such as Ibiza, he interfered with his focus on football.