Stewart Downing – Does he have a future?

The Anfield Faithful are beginning to become restless with Stewart Downing’s performances. As the season has wore on he has looked less and less convincing,the anti Stewart Downing brigade were out in force after the stinker he had against Chelsea in the FA cup final,A lot of the usual unfavourable opinions about him were fired his way. Opinions like “he is not worth £20million”, “he is rubbish”, “he is useless”. It is true he was poor in the Cup Final and has being for best part of the season but I always try and see the bigger picture. I did find myself screaming at the projector in the pub during the game and a lot of my criticism was aimed at Downing but during a game when your emotions are running high is never in my opinion the right time to judge a player properly.

Stewart Downing is a player who I have always liked, though not a flashy winger in the mould of Barnes, Giggs or Figo. Downing in my opinion is very under-rated. He doesn’t have the silky skills of John Barnes nor does he have the explosive pace of Ryan Giggs and he most certainly will never reach the heights Luis Figo did,but he is a player who is hard-working and is very much a team player. An excellent crosser of the ball an in-form Stewart Downing can be a real asset to any team,but does he have a future at Liverpool Football Club?

“Belief” is something that anyone who wishes to succeed in sport or in life needs and at the moment Stewart Downings belief looks non existant,his confidence looks shattered. Every time he receives the ball on the flank and is faced with a one on one situation against the oppositions full back,he looks about as confident as as a calf who has just being thrown into a lion den. I do often wonder if Downing’s problem is mental strength? If it is he certainly wouldn’t be the first Liverpool player to suffer from it and he certainly won’t be the last.

I always give a player at the very least one year to settle,In my opinion 2 years should be afforded to any player especially when it is a player under 23 years of age. Like Andy Carroll I think the price tag has went against Stewart Downing. And in all truth we did overpay,20 million in my opinion was to much money for a player who turns 28 in July. However the price tag doesn’t mean Downing can not be a success. Downing might be out of form at the moment but in football things can change very quickly.

In a more settled side next season we could well see the best of Stewart Downing,football is a team sport and Downing is not the only Liverpool player out of form at the moment. The centre of our midfield has being subject to much criticism and his being a real problem for us this season,the erratic form of Charlie Adam,coupled with the injuries to Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva has left us really exposed and out thought at times. Downing is part of this midfield albeit he is out wide on the flank most of the time,he spends a lot of time interacting with the centre of our midfield. Is he compatible with these players? And if not will he be next season? Or maybe a new midfielder/s will bring the best out of him next season.

This season Liverpool have spent more time in their opponents half than any other team in the premiership,a startling statistic considering our poor goal return,looking at this statistic it would be very easy to point the finger at Stewart Downing by saying he should of scored more goals considering we have spent so much time in the oppositions half and that is a valid argument. But I honestly don’t believe he was bought to score goals,I believe he was signed as a goal provider,and this season Downing has created more than 40 chances for his team-mates. Nobody can point the finger at Downing for the players around him not taking their chances although I do believe Downing is capable of more goals, I think he just needs to believe in himself more.

John Barnes once spoke about the difference between playing for Liverpool and England.He once said when I played for Liverpool I would pick the ball up in space about 20 times a game when I played for England it was about 5 times a game so mathematics meant I had a much better chance of performing for Liverpool than I did for England. The difference between Barnes and Downing is Barnes walked into a settled Liverpool team that were the best in Europe and had a structure in place,this Liverpool team are only in the very early stages of building. If the rumours are to be believed then Liverpool are in the market for a playmaker in the mould of Luka Modric. This type of player who is a really good dribbler could well bring the best out of Downing,A really good dribbler in our midfield could open up a lot of space for Downing to run into and in turn would allow him to shoot more and cross more.

His crossing is clearly the strongest weapon in his armour and with Andy Carroll starting to show signs of becoming the dominant centre forward he can be then an in-form Stewart Downing supplying Andy Carroll with crosses really is a mouth watering prospect. Remember Andy Carroll has almost being at Liverpool 18 months and it is only in the last 3 months that he has started to come good. Therefore Stewart Downing should be given more time to flourish. His poor goal return has being questioned a lot by fans and in all honesty his goal scoring ability has never being great. The most goals he ever hit in a season was 10 with Middlesborough in 2007-08,but every player has his flaws and if he was to assit a lot of goals next season and hit 8-10 goals then that would benefit the team very much.

Kenny Dalglish has a remarkable record in the transfer market when it comes to signing and getting the best out of wide players. Think of players such as John Barnes,Ray Houghton,Stuart Ripley and Jason Wilcox, Wilcox came through the youth-system at Blackburn but Kenny got the best out of him. In fact all of these 4 players played the best football of theirs careers under Kenny. They all played in championship winning teams under Kenny.

A critical judgement constantly thrown Stewart Downing’s way is that hes a “one trick pony” this may be true but to my knowledge their has being plenty of world class one trick ponies,think of players such as Jan Molby and John Aldridge. Molby’s one outstanding quality was his passing while Aldridge’s was his goal scoring ability,so for me calling Stewart Downing a one trick pony is a very weak criticism.

Another weak criticism being thrown at Downing is the opinion that he is a coward.I would disagree with this,yes he looks weak and fragile at the moment,but so did Andy Carroll when his confidence was low and he was out of form. A confident Downing would look much braver and enthusiastic.

I am not sitting on the fence with this article,I consider this article a very fair and unbiased assessment of Stewart Downing and I am going to back him to shine for Liverpool in 2012-13. He clearly is a confidence player but I expect him and the team to be stronger and more experienced next season and this in turn will bring more positive results for the team which should dampen the anxiety Stewart Downing has in his game at the moment,and hopefully in turn will lead to him becoming a vital component of a successful Liverpool team.


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