Stewart Downing: 10 steps backwards,1 step forward


DowningAfter his £20 million pound move from Aston Villa to Liverpool, Stewart Downing would have hoped that his startling form became a hot pub conversation topic, and it did;  just unfortunately for Downing it was as the butt of most Premiership-related jokes.

18 months on, his price tag has become the ambassador for the ‘English players are overpriced’ brigade. Perhaps rightly so, as in the league he has conjured the grand total of 1 goal and 1 assist. When you consider that he often takes corners, has taken penalties for Liverpool, and that an assist can be as simple as a 6-yard sideways pass, this really is quite abysmal.

In November, it seemed Downing’s Liverpool career was well and truly over. He had lost his place to a pair of teenagers in Sterling and Suso, and had been told by Brendan Rogers that his best chance of getting in the team was as a left back. This was cruelly publicised in the ‘Being Liverpool’ documentary, where his team-mates rechristened Downing as ‘Left Back’ on a team bowling trip. In another episode, Rogers told his squad that he had written the names of 3 players who would let him down this season in an envelope. While he paused for effect, the camera menacingly panned to a stern faced Stewart Downing…

Rogers it seemed, put the final nail in his coffin. While he is usually overly positive toward any Liverpool player or performance (to the annoyance of many fans) Rogers publically criticised both Downing and Joe Cole. The latter of course, would already have left Liverpool if it wasn’t for his absurdly high wage.

From this quite frankly embarrassing position though, Downing has staged somewhat of a mini-revival. Starting against Anzhi in the Europa League, he scored a brilliant winner which eventually helped send Liverpool through as group winners. He shortly followed this up with a goal and a wonderful assist in the 4-0 rout of Fulham, and was even the best player on the pitch in Liverpool’s home defeat to Aston Villa.

Although many fans will find it hard to forgive his first year-and-a-half, he surely must be commended on winning his place back in the team, and showing the character that many pundits and fans didn’t know existed. Rogers must also be credited, as his hard stance on Downing has forced the player to fight for his Liverpool future.

Liverpool fans must remember Lucas Leiva; a once victim of weekly boos; but through his own perseverance he has become a Kop-favourite, and an integral part of Liverpool’s future.

They will hope that Stewart Downing continues his re-emergence and follows in the same footsteps. Downing (once touted as ‘England’s left-sided hope’) will perhaps perform best as an underdog, away from the shackles of stardom.  It is important to remember that a player can’t be blamed for their price tag, only a club can…

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