Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Winger Wants Safety Legacy; Survival Is Downing's Aim

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Winger Wants Safety Legacy; Survival Is Downing's Aim

Article excerpt

STEWART Downing could leave Middlesbrough with his head held high if he helped his hometown club to retain their topflight status, writes JACK PICKERING.

The 24-year-old England international will sit down with chairman Steve Gibson and manager Gareth Southgate during the summer to discuss his future after being denied a pounds 15m January move to Tottenham.

With several clubs monitoring the winger's situation, there is likely to be a great deal of interest should the Teessiders reluctantly allow the shining star of their renowned academy leave.

Downing's departure seemed inevitable during the transfer window until Gibson put his foot down and insisted he was not for sale, and that left the player in a dif- ficult situation. However, his response has been admirable and if Boro avoid relegation, he will have played a major part in a dramatic escape.

Speaking about the transfer saga, Downing said: "It was unsettling, especially with the situation. It didn't come out well but you have just got to think there is no point moaning or sulking. I am here until the summer so I might as well get on with it and help us stay in the league." Asked whether survival would be a fitting legacy, he added: "Staying in this league would be the biggest one, then whoever is here next year season and whoever is not can hold their head up and say, 'I did my bit'. Hopefully, that will be enough for people." Downing's form since January has been excellent, testament not only to his feeling for the club he supported as a boy but also the importance of retaining his place in Fabio Capello's England squad.

He added: "Not only that, it's personal pride as well. I have got my England place to think of and there's a World Cup next year.

"I need to play well at all times and that was an incentive for me.

am playing in front of my friends, family and hometown people, so that's another one." Southgate's side face a daunting trip to Arsenal tomorrow and then play leaders Manchester United at home, and with three points currently separating them from safety and just five games to go, time is fast running out. …

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