Friday 28 October 2016

Downing returns to Middlesbrough

Published 16/07/2015 | 14:02

Stewart Downing has rejoined home-town club Middlesbrough
Stewart Downing has rejoined home-town club Middlesbrough

Winger Stewart Downing has rejoined former club Middlesbrough on a four-year deal from West Ham.

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Downing drops down from the Barclays Premier League to rejoin his home-town club, who were beaten by Norwich in the Championship play-off final at Wembley in May.

The 30-year-old England international played almost 250 games for Boro during an eight-year spell before leaving for Aston Villa in 2009 and will link up with Aitor Karanka's squad at a pre-season training camp in Marbella.

Downing, perhaps the highest-profile graduate of the north-east club's famed a cademy, was left out of the Hammers' squad for their Thursday night Europa League clash with Birkirkara and was pictured arriving for a medical with Boro looking to seal a sensational swoop.

And, with his signature now secured, Karanka is pleased to add a player of Downing's calibre to his squad.

"It's an amazing signing for us. He's more than just a player," the Spaniard told his club's official website.

"Nobody expected him to come here but he wants to be here, and is completely committed to the club and the team.

"He is a very good person and I'm excited to work with him."

Downing made his Boro debut during the 2001/02 campaign and spent seven further seasons at the Riverside Stadium before earning a £12million move to Aston Villa in July 2009.

The winger swapped life in the Midlands for Liverpool, who paid £20m for his services, two years later and then headed to West Ham for £5m in August 2013.

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic wished Downing well, admitting he had wanted the former England man as part of his squad in the Premier League.

"I didn't want him to go, he's a quality English player and I know how hard it is to get the quality ones," he said.

"Of course I rate him, I know him from the national team when we played England, and he was brilliant in the first half of last season, so I was counting on him big time, but he told me when we were in Cork that he wanted to go home.

"I tried to persuade him to stay with us, that I was counting on him, but he said 'I like you and everything, but I want to go home. If it was any other club, I would stay here'.

"It is a great opportunity for him.

"Maybe I could have stopped him, and all that, however it is not what we wanted to do, but he wanted to leave."

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