Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

A Renaissance for Stewie - or Just Back Where He Belongs?

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

A Renaissance for Stewie - or Just Back Where He Belongs?

Article excerpt

Byline: DOMINIC SHAW dominic.shaw@trinitymirror.com @DOMSHAWGAZETTE

IT was early November two seasons ago and the subject of a piece in a national newspaper had just played a crucial matchchanging role as he helped his side come from 2-0 down to scrape a point at Stoke.

It was described as a "renaissance" and the writer was armed with stats.

For West Ham United, it was their best start to a season in 12 years. A "key reason" was the form of Stewart Downing.

More stats. He'd created 30 chances by that stage of the season, a number only bettered by Cesc Fabregas and Dusan Tadic.

There was talk of an England call, fuelled by Sam Allardyce's claim that he was the best player in his position in the Premier League at that time. The position he referred to, of course, was the central No 10 role.

Downing has played the vast majority of his football on the left for Boro so far this season - and in doing so has shown signs of yet another renaissance.

On one hand, the defeat against Palace brought to the fore memories of Downing's scorching pace and his desire to get to the byline when he first burst onto the scene as a Boro youngster.

Watching Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha doing exactly that and tormenting the opposition full-backs was a throwback to Downing's days when he hugged the touchline and coasted past defenders with such effortless ease. The days when George Boateng received the ball and then raised his head to see the North Stand demanding the next pass was aimed in Downing's direction. Yet Saturday's game also served to highlight Downing's strengths in his much-adapted game: his positional awareness and ability to spot that pass, his willingness to support the full-back and the manner in which he can drift inside to good effect.

He remains a divisive figure in the stands who is made well aware of any cross which fails to beat the first man but the game against Palace hit home the message of Downing's growing importance in this Boro side.

There's a growing reliance on Downing and Gaston Ramirez, a need for the pair to remain fit and remain on form. …

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