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Downing: I'm having a great time at Rovers

The versatile midfielder says he's loving life in Lancashire ahead of a first return to Middlesbrough this weekend

31 January 2020

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“I’m loving it here, absolutely loving it."

It's fair to say that Stewart Downing's switch from the north-east to the north-west has gone better than any party could have hoped for.

After arriving on a free transfer from Middlesbrough in the summer of 2019, Downing, who has 35 England caps to his name, has been a revelation in blue-and-white.

Showing his versatility and usual classy play wherever he's been asked to fill in, the 35-year-old is surely a Player of the Season contender thanks to his consistent displays whenever he's been called upon.

His impact has been so great, the experienced campaigner has featured in 26 of Rovers' 29 league games so far this season.

So how has Downing found things at Ewood Park?

“I’m loving it here, absolutely loving it," he beamed to iFollow Rovers.

"People ask about how long I’ll keep playing for, but as long as I’m like I am, I’ll just keep going.

“The biggest thing is enjoying things, being fit and contributing. I think if I wasn’t enjoying it, wasn’t playing and getting in the way of a young kid coming through, I’d probably move away.

“I’ve played in numerous positions and I just love being here. The lads are great, the club’s great and there are lots of great people here as well. I can’t ask for any more. The move has been what I hoped it would be and more.

“I have a really good relationship with the manager, which I haven’t always had before in my career at other teams, and that’s a big thing.

“When I spoke to the gaffer in the summer, I just said I wanted to enjoy my football, and he’s allowed me to play and enjoy it.

“If I depart this summer, I certainly wouldn’t look back at it with regret having been here for only a year. It’s gone great, and if I stay on then that would be perfect."

Downing's initial one-year deal comes to an end this summer, and the midfield maestro is relaxed when asked about potential talks on a new contract.

However, he admits that he would love to stick around longer term in East Lancashire.

“I think we are concentrating on getting into the play-offs so we’ve had no conversations at the moment," he added.

"The main target right now is the top six, but I imagine that there will come a point towards the end of the season where we maybe will sit down and see what’s happening.

“The club will want to secure where they are in the league and what league they will be in, then it will come down to budgets and a million other things - that’s management for you.

“I’ll speak to the manager, tell him how much I’ve really enjoyed my football here, and then it’s up to him to make the decision.

“But whatever happens, we’ll shake hands either way.

“The last contract I had with Middlesbrough was a nightmare to be honest, spending the last six months training every day but knowing you can’t play. I don’t want that situation.

“I’ve said to the manager that he should just judge me on what he sees from me. If he thinks I’m good enough and I can carry on contributing to the team, we’ll carry on.

“If not, I’ll walk away, we’ll shake hands knowing I’ve had a great time here. There will be no hard feelings either way.”

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