Downing: I'll stick with Villa
The England winger has been in fine form and won the man of the match award for his performance in the mid-week friendly international with Ghana at Wembley. Downing has been the subject of speculation linking him with a move away from Villa this summer along with Ashley Young. But he has played that down and wants to repay Villa for signing him when he was side-lined with a broken ankle which delayed his debut for eight months. When asked if he would guarantee being at Villa next season, Downing said: "Yes. Obviously there is speculation about players going to clubs all the time but I am happy here. "Since the first day I came I have enjoyed it. The pleasing thing for me this season has been to play well and to stay fit and be in the team. "I have not even thought about leaving at any time. A lot faith went in to me. "The club paid a lot of money for me when I was injured and it was a serious injury. "I want to repay that faith and so do a lot of the other players as well. "They have been bought for decent money and they want to do well as well." Downing believes it is unjust to blame manager Gerard Houllier for Villa's current predicament, which leaves them one point above the Barclays Premier League relegation zone. He said: "It was tough at the start of the season when Martin O'Neill left. "It was four or five days before the season start which wasn't ideal timing. But we coped quite well. "Kevin MacDonald came in as caretaker, and we knew Gerard Houllier was coming in, so I don't think we can blame the manager and say that is why we are here. "It is the same set of players as last season (when Villa finished sixth) apart from James Milner and we have added a few." Downing is also confident Houllier will handle being the target of abuse from the fans after the home defeat by Wolves when there were calls for him to quit. He said: "That happens with all football fans. A couple of weeks ago they were cheering his name then a few weeks after that they want him out. "That is football for you. It is the same with players. "If you win, the fans love you to death and, if you don't, they want you out of the team. "I think you've just got to cope with it and obviously the manager is strong enough to cope with that side of things." Downing added: "I've not spoken to him about the abuse he got but he seems fine. "He is smiling with all the players and speaking to the lads. It wasn't nice for him but he has been in football a long time and I am sure he understands when these things go on."