Stewart Downing's next to take the stage for our new 'Football Origins' feature...
We sat down with the midfielder to discuss his career so far, his firsts, his favourites and much more.
This piece was in the matchday programme against Cardiff City.
First Football Memory
As a six-year-old, going to my local team, Marton Juniors, with my dad, on the bike, because he didn’t have a car at the time. Rain, hail or snow he used to bike me there, to my local team.
Team You Supported Growing Up
Middlesbrough. And I used to have an affinity for Tottenham Hotspur. I don’t know why, I think it was the kit. My mum used to get me the kit. I think it was when Jurgen Klinsmann was playing, that type of era. I remember the yellow Holsten kit. Don’t ask me why! But Middlesbrough was the team I supported.
First Game You Attended
The one I can remember was the last game at Ayresome Park. We beat Luton 4-2. I remember everyone at the full-time whistle running onto the pitch. I was only eight or nine at the time, thinking ‘should I run on, should I not’. I was with my uncle and we didn’t run on, but I just remember the scenes of the last ever game at Ayresome Park.
First Football Shirt You Owned
I think it was either the Tottenham Holsten yellow kit or it might have been the Man United black kit, with the laces through it, because I used to like Man United with Ryan Giggs.
First Pair of Football Boots
I used to wear Puma Kings. I remember the flippy tongues when I was younger ... the Gazza ones. But my standout boots as a kid were the Reebok Sidewinders. Ryan Giggs used to wear them. You used to get them in blue and yellow, and it looked a bit like lightning down the side. Jazzy!
Ryan Giggs. Because I was a left-sided player, at the time when I was growing up, he was the poster boy for English football. He's probably the best left winger ever produced in England, so he was my favourite player.
First Junior Team
Marton Juniors. A local team in Middlesbrough. There was a couple of good local teams. Cleveland Juniors was one, Marton was one, and it was one or the other, but I went for Marton Juniors and I stayed there until I was 13 or 14. I had a really good time there.
Age You Were Scouted
I used to go down to the Middlesbrough Centre of Excellence at eight or nine. I also did a couple of others. I went to Man United, which was quite local, it was in Sunderland at the time. I actually came to Blackburn as a kid, when I was 12 or 13, but then I obviously signed for Middlesbrough, where I started around eight or nine.
The first time I came on was at Brentford for Middlesbrough in the cup and we won 4-1. I came on for about 20 minutes and I scored right at the end. I actually got told off by Steve McClaren for jumping near the crowd! My full debut was a year later - the back end of the 2002 season - when we played Ipswich Town away and we lost 1-0. That was my first full 90 minutes. I didn’t have a clue I was playing. My dad has been to nearly every game and that game I said to him 'don’t travel to Ipswich', because Middlesbrough to Ipswich is about eight hours. I said 'I will probably be in the stand', because I'd not been playing a lot and then he names the team and I’m playing! My first thought was 'my dad's gonna kill us!'
Best Memory In Football
That's a hard one. I think, in terms of an experience, I'd probably go for the 2006 World Cup. I was only 21, I think, and to be around the players at that time, Gerrard, Lampard, Ferdinand, Owen, Rooney, all of them. I still can't believe we didn’t win that tournament. I think a little bit more luck and we could have won it. But just to be in that squad, it was an unbelievable experience.
Best Advice Ever Received
Probably my dad, who would say 'you've got to believe in yourself'. My dad always used to say 'you are good enough, you've got to believe in yourself more, because if you don’t, you'll never make it to the top'. So that always stuck with me.
Your Advice For Young Players
First and foremost, hard work is the number one thing that managers look for. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t work hard, a lot of managers won't have trust in you and you won't play. So I'd say your attitude is number one, but I think as an overall thing, you’ve got to believe in yourself. If you have belief in yourself, you generally do well.