Stewart Downing has received no guarantees his recent Liverpool renaissance has secured his long-term Anfield future. Downing was shocked to be told by manager Brendan Rodgers he could leave the club earlier this season.
Since then, the England winger has found his form and become a regular - he will start against West Brom tonight - but he remains unsure if he has done enough to prevent his sale at the end of the season.
Downing admits Rodgers’ honest approach may have given him the extra spur needed to raise his game.
He also knows the best way to banish doubts is to help Liverpool qualify for the Champions League. With a late surge into the top four, Rodgers will need a bigger squad - and have the extra finance enabling him to retain the services of bigger earners rather than reassess the best use of resources.
“I was disappointed when I was told by the manager I could leave,” said Downing. “It looked like my chance had gone. The team was doing OK and I wasn’t even getting on the bench at times.
“I had a situation where I could have left. But I didn’t want to and the only way to stay was to get into the team and do well.
“I just needed that chance and luckily enough I got that in the weeks after that conversation.
“I’m happy with how it’s going at the minute, but whether that changes in the summer I don’t know.
”It was difficult, it was something I wasn’t used to. It was a bolt from the blue. I’d not played so I didn’t see that I had done a lot wrong. In a way, sometimes that can be a good thing, you see how you react in that situation.
“I thought I needed a chance to play as the system the manager was playing suited me. I had to fill in at left-back for a while, which I hadn’t done before. But to play in my proper position higher up the field, whether it’s on the right or the left, I think it’s gone quite well since I was put in there. It was probably my last chance.
“He strengthened again in January with people who can play in my position, so the only thing I can do is if I keep playing well so he can’t leave me out, basically. That’s how I see it.
“Every time I play is a chance to prove him wrong and to show him I am worthy of a place in the team.
“The good thing about the manager is you know where you stand. You play well you’re in the team, if you don’t you’re out of the door. It’s as simple as that. That’s the way I like to be managed.”
Steve Clarke has urged his West Brom players to recover from a nightmare start to 2013 as he makes his first return to Anfield.
After an alarming run of five defeats in the last six Premier League games, Albion’s season has also been damaged by Peter Odemwingie’s extraordinary attempts to force a January move to Queens Park Rangers.
Clarke said: “It hasn’t been ideal for us, it hasn’t been a good six weeks since the start of the year but it’s important we don’t lose sight of where we are.
“Liverpool are still in and around us and we need to refocus and attack the next 13 games with the relish in which we attacked the first 13 games.”