Birthdate: 22 July 1984
Birthplace: Middlesbrough, England
Other clubs: Middlesbrough (2000-09), Sunderland (loan 2003), Aston Villa (2009-11)
Bought from: Aston Villa
Signed for LFC: £18.5m, 15.07.2011
International debut: 09.02.2005 vs. Holland
International caps: 34/0 (7/0 at LFC) - 26.05.2012
Liverpool debut: 13.08.2011
Last appearance: 12.05.2013
Debut goal: 06.01.2012
Last goal: 10.03.2013
Win ratio: 44.44% W: 40 D: 22 L: 28
Total games/goals opposite LFC: 13 / 2
LFC league games/goals: 64 / 3
Total LFC games/goals: 90 / 7
Liverpool needed more than one attempt to secure Stewart Downing’s services. There were strong rumours about a move to Anfield following Middlesbrough’s relegation in 2009, but the then 24-year-old elected to join Aston Villa. In early July 2011 Liverpool made a bid believed to be £15 million. This was immediately rejected by the Midlands club and their new manager Alex McLeish declared that the winger would not be leaving Villa Park. However, history shows that every player has his price and Downing was no exception. When Liverpool came back with a higher offer, Villa allowed Downing to leave. Downing supported his local League club as a child and graduated from Boro’s Academy with glowing reports. He flourished under the managership of Steve McLaren and played in three Premier League matches towards the end of the 2001/02 season. His opportunities were limited in the next season but in 2003/04 he made 27 League appearances, seven of which came during a loan spell with Sunderland in the Championship. Downing became much more of a regular first-team player once his loan spell on Wearside was over, only once failing to make over 30 Premier League appearances in each of the next five seasons at Boro. The exception was the 2005/06 season, when a knee injury caused him to miss five months of football, although he had recovered in time to take his place in the UEFA Cup final of 2006, in which Middlesbrough were outclassed by Sevilla. McLaren left to take on the England job but his replacement, Gareth Southgate, had similar faith in Downing. When McLaren left following England’s failure to qualify for the 2008 European Championships, Downing continued to be a regular member of the squads named by Fabio Capello. At the time of his move to Merseyside, Downing had been ‘capped’ on twenty-seven occasions.
Even though he was under contract to Aston Villa, Downing had become one of the footballers most expected to move on during the summer of 2011. The Guardian’s Barney Ronay referred to him as “the most undervalued of English footballers: intelligent, scuttlingly forceful and with some refined touches in his versatile left foot.” Kenny Dalglish was prepared to return early from Liverpool’s tour of the Far East with the purpose of finalising the Downing deal. Downing's first season as a Liverpool player can hardly be hailed as a success as he delivered no goals and no assists from the 36 Premier League matches he appeared in. Admittedly, he delivered a few brilliant goalscoring opportunities that were pitifully wasted, usually by Andy Carroll. Given an opportunity to open his League account for the club in the last home match, he placed a penalty-kick against the woodwork, something he and his teammates had really bad luck with during the whole season. Downing had better luck in the FA Cup, netting against Oldham in the third round and then scoring the winner in the sixth round against Stoke. But on the whole it was a season the winger will look back on with only regret, even though he picked up his second League Cup winners' medal.
Brendan Rodgers' comment on young winger Raheem Sterling in August 2012 incidentally summed up perfectly Downing's performance so far for the club: "Young players will run through a barbed wire fence for you. Older players will look for the hole in the fence or just turn back and not even go through it." Downing admitted that Brendan Rodgers was looking to sell him in the January transfer window, but he seems to have taken aboard his boss' criticism. In December 2012 Rodgers revealed that he had heart-to-heart discussions with Downing that have clearly paid off. "I spoke to Stewart about six or seven weeks ago and we had an honest conversation about where he was at. He's in his late 20s, he was an England international a few years ago and he wasn't playing. So we spoke about how he could get into the team. And I think his reaction from that moment, like it has been for Jose Enrique and one or two others, has been outstanding." Whether he has been used as a left-back or as a left/right winger Downing has performed to his ability and finally he has got some assists to his name, which was probably quite a relief in the unforgiving Anfield spotlight.