With a £6million move from Liverpool in the offing, Stewart Downing is to undergo a medical at Upton Park as the likelihood of a switch to West Ham gathers momentum.
The 29-year-old winger is a product of the Middlesbrough Academy. Having come through the the youth system at Rockliffe Park near Hurworth, in 2001 he graduated to the first-team set up.
His debut would come the following year, in a Premier League encounter away to Ipswich in late April. However he made limited appearances over the course of the following season and in an attempt to gain more first-team action he went on loan in 2003 to local rivals Sunderland.
An injury crisis at The Riverside meant after 7 first team appearances and 3 goals for the Black Cats, his local sojourn was cut short and he returned to his parent club where he was brought straight into the first team.
The following season, 2004-05, was his breakthrough season. Downing scored 6 goals in 49 games and stood out with his excellent deliveries and numerous assists. Sven Goran-Eriksson’s head was turned and the then England manager called Downing up in 2005 and he would go to the 2006 World Cup, making two substitute appearances.
In early 2008, Downing became Middlesbrough’s second longest serving player, signing a five year contract that was to keep him at the club until 2013.
The 2008-09 season was the last time Middlesbrough were present in the top flight, a poor run seeing to their relegation to the Championship. The inevitable farewell was boded to some of the clubs top players and Downing was among them, moving to the midlands and Aston Villa; Martin O’Neill’s first summer transfer was a £10million deal for the England international.
Between 2009 and 2011, Downing performed well for Villa, sufficiently so in the 2010-11 season to garner a substantial amount of interest from Liverpool. Villa endeavoured to hold firm but a fee, believed to be in the region of £20million was agreed between the two sides and with that he became a Liverpool player in time for the 2011-12 season.
In his two seasons at the club, Downing has figured significantly in terms of appearances but the general consensus has been that the player has under performed. Seven goal in 91 appearances for Liverpool – 5 goals in 45 appearances last season – isn’t an insignificant contribution to the club; but it’s understood Rodgers has been willing to let the player leave for the right price.
And it seems that move is on the verge of happening. Sam Allardyce will be charged with aiding the player to return to his peak. If he does, it could well prove to be money well spent.