Rovers manager Tony Mowbray has been delighted with the contribution made by Stewart Downing this season, ahead of the midfielder’s Middlesbrough reunion.
The 35-year-old, who joined Rovers on a free transfer from Middlesbrough in the summer, will return to the Riverside as an opposition player for the first time in his career this weekend.
Downing made over 400 appearances in two spells at Boro and has been arguably Rovers’ most consistent performer this campaign, starting 24 of our 29 Championship games.
Mowbray says the club are conscious of managing Downing’s workload during the week, to ensure that they get the best out of him on a Saturday.
“He’s been magnificent for the team,” said the Rovers boss. “In training every day as well, he doesn’t want to miss training.
“He works really hard. We’re just getting to a point now where we have to try and manage his programme.
“We take him out of the odd day of training and give him a breather, so that we hope he can play on the Saturday a few days later.
“We’re trying to make sure he’s there and out on the pitch, rather than keep driving him like a 23 or 24-year-old who can train every day.
“We have to try and look after Stewy and make sure he’s ready for the weekend, but generally he wants to train and get out there with the lads and join in and be a part of what we do.
“I’ve been delighted with him and his contribution. Hopefully he’s got another 17 games in him that will help us achieve our goals.
A winger by trade, Downing has excelled in a variety of different positions this season, emphasising his importance to the team.
“He brings quality in whichever position you ask him to play,” added the manager.
“He spent some time playing at left-back when Amari’i (Bell) lost a bit of confidence and Stewy did a remarkable job for somebody of 35. His ability to serve the ball forward into the team was exceptional.
“Now back in midfield, playing in a central area, he’s doing an amazing job, linking the team from back to front.
“I’m sure we might find him playing off the right or playing off the left as well at times. I’m just happy he’s here. I think he’s enjoying his football, so let’s just see how he goes.”