Downing driven on by frustration
Liverpool winger Stewart Downing admits manager Brendan Rodgers telling him he could leave provided a "kick up the backside".
He insists he never wanted to move on but the message from the Northern Irishman meant he had to start seriously considering he may not have a future at Anfield. Downing was left confused and surprised by his continued absence from the first team - hinting that the decision had not been made on football grounds.
The 28-year-old said: "I was a little bit surprised when he (Rodgers) said I could go. He came in and was pleased with me at the start and then all of a sudden things changed quickly and I could go. If it was a gee-up for me then maybe it's worked because the performances are coming now."
He added: "I wanted to stay, I didn't want to leave but it was out of my hands. I was out of the team and frustrated and I said if something big came up I'd look at it. We had that conversation and, to be honest, I thought I was on my way in January
"I don't know who makes that decision but one minute I was being told I was doing well and the next I was told I could go. It was a bit confusing. But it is a kick up the backside. I then had nothing to lose as I was going."
Having started the first Barclays Premier League match of the season Downing did not make another league start until November 25.
He has now featured in the first-choice side in seven of the last eight in all competitions and put in arguably his best performance in the 4-0 win over Fulham with his first league goal and assist since joining the club in the summer of 2011.
"I've waited a long time for it (the goal) but the most important thing was the win," he said.
"I'm enjoying it because I'm playing some games and I'm looking to stay in the team, score some goals and hopefully do well.
"It seems to be coming together and I'm pleased because it has been hard work at times but you have to keep going, being strong and I got my reward and hopefully it continues in the new year."