Stewart Downing insists the opportunity to play for one of his heroes was a key factor behind his decision to join the club.
The 34-year-old became manager Tony Mowbray’s first signing of the summer yesterday when he joined on a free transfer from Middlesbrough.
A boyhood Boro fan, Downing made over 400 appearances for his hometown team across two spells, having initially joined as a schoolboy before progressing through their Academy ranks.
Mowbray is another North East native who started his career at Middlesbrough, where he also went on to play over 400 games and captain the club.
He later returned to the Riverside as manager in October 2010 and Downing is looking forward to working under the Rovers boss, who he says is highly regarded within the game.
“As a Boro fan growing up, he was a hero of mine,” said the former England international, who has signed a one-year deal at Ewood Park.
“I just like the way his teams always play.
“He’s got a really good reputation in the game, players love to play for him and you can see that when you speak to him one-on-one.
“His ideas of how he wants to set the team up and what he likes, not only on the field but off the field as well. I really like him, I’ve got a lot of respect for him and that’s why I wanted to come and play for him.
“He knows his stuff. He knows a lot of systems and ways of playing. He knows players. And he knows what he wants, which is good, because you get a clear idea of how he wants to play.
“I was excited with the way he wants me to fit into his team and how he sees the team playing, and that’s why I want to come and play for him.”
A versatile and gifted left-footed footballer, who made his name as a winger, Downing can play anywhere across the middle of the park, as well as at full-back.
So where does he see himself fitting into the Rovers team?
“In quite a few roles to be honest,” Downing added.
“First and foremost I’ve got to work hard in pre-season and get in the team.
“Wherever the manager sees me fit to play, I’m not too fussed. I just want to play. I came here to play and get games, so wherever he sees fit, I’m not too fussed.”
- Stewart Downing will be with Rovers for the 2019-20 Championship campaign, will you? Sign up now for a Season Ticket here.