Move U-turn delights Downing

Liverpool midfielder Stewart Downing is confident his long-term

future remains at Anfield after forcing Brendan Rodgers into a

major U-turn.

The Reds boss told Downing that he was free to leave the club

earlier in the season, however a string of eye-catching

performances have seen the 28-year-old cement a regular place in

the starting XI.

Downing has started Liverpool’s last 15 Premier League fixtures

and will face former club Aston Villa in the West Midlands on

Sunday.

Speaking on his relationship with Rodgers, Downing told the

Sunday Telegraph: “He wants me to stay, he’s told me that.

“He said I have been brilliant and that’s why he wants me to

play every week. So, for me, that’s all put to bed now.”

Former Middlesbrough and Villa winger Downing looked set to

leave Anfield in January after Rodgers told him he was surplus to

requirements.

And the 34-cap England man admitted: “It was like a kick in the

teeth; a shock. It hurt, it really did. I cannot afford not to be

playing. Not at my age. He said: ‘If things don’t change you are

free to leave.’ He was quite open about it and credit to him for

that.

“Everyone thought when he said it that that was it for me but I

have actually always got on well with the manager and I have always

worked hard. At Middlesbrough with Steve McClaren, I worked hard in

a defensive, counter-attacking team and at Aston Villa it was the

same.

“But the biggest criticism you can have is the manager saying

you can go and I had that. I just felt I needed a chance, that I

needed a run of games.”