I’ve wondered for a long time what it is that managers see in Stewart Downing, particularly England managers. Since his first call up in February 2005, Downing has been pretty much been a regular in the England squad, but why? I don’t understand how one player can have gained 22 caps without ever making an impact in any of those games. People criticise the manner in which David Beckham has accrued caps in recent years to tie him level with Bobby Moore but at least he has made an impact for his country at some stage of his career. In his ten minute cameo appearances, David Beckham provides more goal scoring opportunities than Stewart Downing could ever dream of.
For his club, Downing is undeniably a good player but as soon as he puts on an England shirt he seems to lose the ability to take on full backs and get crosses into the box. There is a reason though why Tottenham wanted to buy him. At Premiership level, he scores and creates goals on a regular basis and has one of the best deliveries in the league. Although his form in front of goal hasn’t been as good this season, he is still a class operator down the flanks and can give the best full backs in the world a torrid ninety minutes. He must be exceptional in training as well, why else would Fabio Capello openly say that he has been most impressed by the winger?
Downing has all the natural attributes to be a top player but let’s face it, he only gets into the England squad because he is left footed. It is well publicised that England have always struggled in that position and a naturally left footed winger is hard to come by. But that doesn’t justify continuously playing someone in that position who has had numerous opportunities and never really impressed. Not when Ashley Young is looking on from the bench, or worse, watching at home on his television having been overlooked yet again. From Young’s point of view he must be wondering what more he has to do to get a game for his country.
Granted, Downing had a decent game against Germany last November but one performance in twenty two is just not acceptable. Not when Andorran and Macedonian full backs are marking him out of a game. If Downing was right footed, he wouldn’t get a sniff. He would find himself in the wilderness with the likes of David Bentley. If Downing replicated his ‘Boro form for England then by all means he should be considered but after four years now, each time he has played for England it has become increasingly clear that he just isn’t up to the job. This has been shown up by the manager’s choice to not play him in crucial competitive matches as he is too inconsistent compared to someone like Joe Cole who can be relied upon. But surely his consistent inclusion in the squad is only giving him the false perception that he is producing the standard of performance that is required.
Capello has stated that he only picks players who are playing regularly and more importantly playing well so this would explain why Downing is constantly selected but I for one think it’s time to leave him out for a while. There are other options that haven’t been explored and the only thing that Downing has proved in my opinion is that he is not the answer.