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Brendan Rodgers: My decision to sell to Stewart Downing may come back to haunt me

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Brendan Rodgers believes his Liverpool players can grasp their opportunity to win the first trophy of a new era. Photo: PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images

Brendan Rodgers believes his Liverpool players can grasp their opportunity to win the first trophy of a new era. Photo: PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images

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Online broker Alpari, a sponsor of Premier League club West Ham United, declared itself insolvent. Photo: PA

Online broker Alpari, a sponsor of Premier League club West Ham United, declared itself insolvent. Photo: PA

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Brendan Rodgers believes his Liverpool players can grasp their opportunity to win the first trophy of a new era. Photo: PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers knows his decision to sell Stewart Downing could come back to haunt him again when he comes up against the West Ham star on Saturday.

Few questioned Rodgers' decision to sell Downing to West Ham last season, as despite arriving at Anfield with a £20million price tag on his shirt, Downing struggled to hold down a first-team place with the Reds and often ended up filling in at left-back.

Eighteen months on, Downing has become one of the most effective midfielders in the Barclays Premier League.

Sam Allardyce has revitalised the 30-year-old's career by moving the player into a central role, where he performed superbly to see Liverpool off when the two teams last met.

Downing nullified the threat Steven Gerrard posed and also had a hand in every one of West Ham's goals.

The 3-1 win at Upton Park was arguably Downing's best display of an impressive season for the midfielder and Rodgers admits if he had his way, the 30-year-old would still be on Merseyside.

"Stewart was one I did not want to let go," the Liverpool boss said.

"It was a difficult start for him, but when we worked together at the beginning in the second part of the season he was one of the regular players so he wasn't someone who I wanted to move on.

"He and has done very well at West Ham.

"He is a really gifted player technically, he has a wonderful technique, he plays games and trains every day and is a good guy so it's not surprised me how well he has done."

Downing is not the only West Ham player who will be hoping to prove Rodgers wrong on Saturday.

Andy Carroll joined Liverpool from Newcastle for £35million four years ago, but returned just two goals in his first season at the club.

Like Downing, he has found a new lease of life since Rodgers sold him to West Ham, although his time at Upton Park has been hindered somewhat by injury.

Although Rodgers has no regrets about letting Carroll go, he has been impressed by the 26-year-old's form since he returned from a four-month foot injury layoff.

"Andy is fantastic football player," said Rodgers of Carroll, who has scored two goals in his last two Premier League games.

"He has quality and ability around the box.

"I just felt in terms of how I play and maybe how the team operates that he might not have been a regular player because of the movement and the speed at which we try to work.

"But that doesn't mean he is a bad player. He is an outstanding player and when he is fit he has shown that at West Ham."

Liverpool's 3-1 defeat at Upton Park was one of the lowest points of what has been a testing season for Rodgers, who has seen his team struggle to compete for Champions League qualification despite signing nine players last summer.

But the Northern Irishman is convinced his team have improved greatly since last September's defeat in the capital.

The Reds' spirited performance in their narrow Capital One Cup defeat to Chelsea seems to suggest Rodgers' optimism is not misplaced.

"It's a different team now (from the one that lost at Upton Park) and we have a different mentality," Rodgers said

"I think at that point in time we were struggling. We were trying to play with the same flow and the same rhythm, but we just couldn't find it at that time. I think you see now the confidence in the team. I think we've returned to the top level."

The return of striker Daniel Sturridge, who is available for Saturday's match, will increase confidence further.

Rodgers' only injury doubt for Saturday's game is defender Mamadou Sakho, who is struggling with a back problem he suffered in the 1-0 extra-time defeat at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

 

PA Media