Will Stewie return home?

THERE’S been talk of Stewart Downing coming back to Boro on loan and make no mistake, if that was to happen, he would rip this division apart.
Stewart Downing is top quality. He could be the kind of player that totally transforms the team and has the kind of impact that Paul Merson had, giving Boro something special to win games at this level.
In this league one player can make all the difference. If it is the right player, in the right position, with the right character and the hunger then yes, one signing can turn a team from just another one of the pack into champions.
Stewie is a brilliant player. I’ve always said that. When he was getting stick in an England shirt from the national media and when he was the scapegoat at Liverpool I fought his corner because he is quality.
I always say form is temporary but class is permanent – and Stewie has real class.
He doesn’t give the ball away, he has a great first touch, he covers back, he can cut inside, he links up well, he has good engines, he is a team player, he can deliver a perfect cross and he can score goals. Stewie Downing has got the lot.
We may not have seen that so much at Liverpool but believe me he has it all in his locker.
He may not be as easy on the eye or as quick to turn a trick as Adam Johnson is and he may not have a Premier League Champions medal but for me he is the better player.
He is the best player to roll off the Boro Academy production line, that’s for sure.
We’ve had some good ones like Johnson and David Wheater, James Morrison and Chris Brunt – but for me Downing is the best of the lot.
I’d go further and say he is the best talent that Teesside has produced in a generation.
Who else could possibly have a stronger claim? Jonathan Woodgate? At his prime he was sheer class and a very silky defender and he played at Real Madrid and had he stayed fit then maybe we would be talking about him as the best – but he never quite reached his potential because of injury.
But Stewie has been excellent throughout. Alright, Liverpool has gone sour for him but was brilliant for Boro, he was twice player of the season at Aston Villa and he has been picked by the last five England bosses so he must have something.
That said, do I think he will come to Boro? I hope so. He would be excellent here.
Do I think he will come? Well I don’t know. It sounds like there are a lot of obstacles, not least his massive wages.
But do I think he should come? Well, if I’m being honest, no, no I don’t think so.
For me Stewie Downing is a Premier League player. That is where he should be: at the highest level possible.
Every player should always strive to play on the biggest stage that their talent allows.
I can see the logic of stepping down to the Championship to get games and put himself in the shop-window for a spell but at the same time I think it would send out all the wrong signals from him.
He has already got the national press on his back: if he stepped down a league, even on loan, a lot of them would question his ambition and drive. They would all write him off.
And it would be a big blow to his England career too. If he is playing in the Championship he has next to no chance of being involved. He’s not a bright young talent. He will be seen as a fading force.
And I know Craig Bellamy stepped down a level with Cardiff when he was in the cold at Manchester City but he had no choice. City didn’t want him playing against them and wouldn’t sell to a Premier League side. That’s not the case with Downing. He has a choice. Liverpool would rather sell. He can afford to wait.
Don’t get me wrong. I would love to see Stewie Downing back on Teesside. I’m sure most Boro fans would – and I’m sure it would excite the town and put bums on seats.
But I don’t think it would be the best for his career. And that’s what he has to think of.
THE INJURY To George Friend is a massive blow for Boro.
The left back has been Boro’s best performer for me so far this season so having him side-lined for up to six weeks is a real bombshell.
I have enjoyed watching him play. He has been unbelievable. He can defend, he is good in the air, he can tackle, he has a real attacking instinct when he over-laps, he can whip in a cross and he can beat players when he weaves in from the left. If he adds goals to the mix he will be amazing.
Friend has been the find of the season. And when you consider how much he cost – peanuts – and how much Boro sold Joe Bennett to Aston Villa for he must be the best value signing of the season too.
But I warned when Boro did sell Bennett that they were taking a big risk if they didn’t bring in specialist cover.
They were leaving themselves dangerously short in a key position where you really can’t take risks. There was always the danger it would come back to bite them on the behind.
Now you can say there are alternatives and maybe there is for one game or two games – but not six weeks.
Justin Hoyte has played there at times and he did well when he was switched there against Sunderland and he kept Adam Johnson quiet on the night.
And I know that Stuart Parnaby has stepped in there in emergencies too.
Plus, at a push there is Andy Halliday who by all accounts did very well in the role in a couple of pre-season games and away at Bury in the League Cup too.
But playing a few friendlies with no risk is a world away from the Championship when points are up for grabs.
Hoyte and Parnaby may both be stop-gaps but really you need someone who is experienced in the role.
And – crucially – you need someone who is left-footed. And they are a rarity.
You need a player who when they collect a ball can let it run across their body then knock it down the line with their left foot first time and naturally.
And you need someone who is comfortable with their left foot because usually they are up against the best, fastest and most dangerous player in the opposition team, a dangerous player who is right footed.
In my time  I can only recall one right-footed player who made an effective left-back and that was Colin Cooper.
He’s not available so for me there is a strong case that Boro should forget Stewart Downing and try to bring a specialist left-back on loan.
BORO were very unlucky to lose at Cardiff. They were the best side on the day, especially in the second half, but on the day they just couldn’t stick the chances away.
But we shouldn’t be too disheartened. One defeat in 10 isn’t a bad record at any level, especially when the game you lose so narrowly against a side with the resources of Cardiff.
Dear me, the Welsh side will have come away relieved to have won that game.
And Boro can take a lot of positives from the game: they played well as a unit, they dominated possession and they created a lot of chances.
The important thing now is how they bounce back. This could be the rocket up the pants that they need.
It may make them step up a gear and go on another good long unbeaten run. Whenever we lost in our promotion seasons under Bruce he sat us down with the fixture list and set out the next target of 10 or 12 games without defeat. I hope Mogga has done that/
And now Boro they have two winnable home games so that is a great chance to bounce back and start the next run.
We know there are no easy games in the Championship but hey, if you were allowed to cherry-pick your own fixtures Bristol City at home is the first one you would go for.
A struggling side with a poor defensive record, at home and roared on by another big crowd boosted by another helpful ticket offer. You couldn’t ask for a better platform to bounce back.
IT IS good news for Sunderland supporters that they are finally heading for a sell out at the Stadium of Light.
There were queues this week with delighted Mackems snapping up the tickets for what is looking like the most attractive fixture of the season.
And at last, after a woeful spell of late, they can finally go to the ground knowing they are guaranteed 90 minutes of top quality entertainment.
Yes, the Sunderland fans have been flocking for the chance to see Rihanna! She has better scoring stats than anyone who has played there for years.
And it will be nice to see the ground sold out. It will remind the Mackems of the good old days when it was packed out – to see the likes of Coldplay and Bruce Springsteen!


One Response to “Will Stewie return home?”

  1. PeterSwallow says:

    You make this post like a lee cattermole tackle. Too late

    there was a slim chance he would come on emergancy loan till jan.

    To suggest he would come for longer or in jan. Is an insult to the player

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