Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Star Quality

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Star Quality

Article excerpt

Byline: By Philip Tallentire Evening Gazette

It's official - Stewart Downing is a Star Man!

In a race that almost rivalled Boro's chase for a UEFA Cup slot, the 20-year-old wing wonder fought off a late challenge from Gareth Southgate and Bolo Zenden to the Evening Gazette's 2004/05 Star Man ratings.

The Gazette presented Stewart with a bottle of bubbly and framed print of the paper's back page from the day after he became the first Teessider since Alan Peacock to be capped for England while on the books at Boro.

Going into the Manchester City game, Downing had a three-point lead at the top of the rankings ahead of the skipper and the Dutchman, who shared second place.

On any other day, Southgate's heroic display at the back for Boro against a committed City side would have earned three points for a man of the match display.

But Mark Schwarzer's incredible nerveless injury-time save from Robbie Fowler's penalty single-handedly preserved his side's Euro dream and fully merited the Star Man honours.

Likewise, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's monumental 30-yard free-kick was, until the penalty, the goal that appeared to have earned Boro a priceless point and European football.

In the end, the Dutch striker had to settle for two points while Southgate took one.

But to focus on individuals on a day when the team ethic has never been more evident is unfair.

As a native Teessider and regular Gazette reader, Downing was delighted to land the paper's Star Man award, which in recent seasons has gone to George Boateng, Jon Greening, Gareth Southgate and Paul Ince.

"Being named the Player's Player of the Year was very special because they are your team-mates," he said.

"But the Gazette award also means a lot and it's definitely appreciated."

The Star Man prize is fully merited. While the 20-year-old is the first to admit he found the latter part of the season tough going physically, between October and February he almost single-handedly kept Boro's campaign alive.

He had a hand in the lion's share of the team's goals and when he wasn't setting them up he was scoring. …

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