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.”