Dan Coker's Match Preview
Welcome to the latest in a series of articles designed for international matchdays – a look back at former Hammers players who wore the Three Lions of England.
Today, as England prepare to face Montenegro in Euro 2020 qualifying, we look back at a former Hammers and England winger. Stewart Downing was born in Middlesbrough on 22nd July 1984 and came through the youth system at his hometown club, making his full debut in April 2002 at the age of 17. He played for England Under-16s, Under-18s, Under-19s and Under-21s and made 234 appearances in his first spell at Middlesbrough, scoring 22 goals and winning the League Cup in 2004. He also had a loan spell at Sunderland in 2003, scoring three goals in seven matches in the second tier.
The 20-year-old Downing made his England debut under Sven-Goran Eriksson in a 0-0 friendly draw at Villa Park against the Netherlands on 9th February 2005. Downing was also voted Middlesbrough’s Player of the Season for 2004/05. Shortly after being a UEFA Cup finalist, Downing was selected in England’s squad for the 2006 World Cup and made three substitute appearances against Paraguay, Trinidad & Tobago and Ecuador.
After Middlesbrough’s relegation in 2009, Downing joined Aston Villa for a fee of £10m, rising to £12m based on appearances. He missed out on a place in Fabio Capello’s 2010 World Cup squad. After two seasons, 79 appearances, 11 goals, a League Cup Final appearance in 2010 and being voted Player of the Season for 2010/11, he moved to Liverpool for an estimated £20m in the summer of 2011.
Downing won the League Cup for a second time in 2012, a game in which he was awarded the Alan Hardaker Trophy for being the Man of the Match, and was an FA Cup finalist in the same year. He ended the season by being named in Roy Hodgson’s England squad for the 2012 European Championships but he did not get any game time during the tournament.
After seven goals in 91 appearances for Liverpool, Downing signed for Sam Allardyce’s West Ham United in August 2013 for a reported £5m, joining up with former Liverpool team-mate Andy Carroll who had signed permanently for the Hammers a few weeks earlier. The 29-year-old Downing made his Hammers debut as a substitute in a 2-0 opening day home victory over Cardiff on 17th August 2013 – he went on to make 37 appearances in his first season, scoring his first goal for the club from a free-kick in a 2-0 win over Tottenham at Upton Park on 3rd May 2014 as the Hammers finished 13th.
Downing had a fantastic season in 2014/15, with his move from the wing to the tip of a midfield diamond paying individual and team dividends. He scored in the first away game of the season at Crystal Palace, cutting in from the right to finish low into the far corner – it was the second goal in a 3-1 Hammers win. The Irons had pushed into the Premier League’s top four by the time Downing inspired a comeback from 2-0 down at Stoke to claim a point on 1st November 2014 – he set up the first for Enner Valencia before firing home right-footed to complete the fightback and claim a point.
Downing’s excellent form had not gone unnoticed by England manager Hodgson, who rewarded the 30-year-old with his first England appearance in two and a half years against Scotland in a friendly at Celtic Park, Glasgow. Downing played the first half in a 3-1 Three Lions win. It would transpire to be his 35th and final cap – he never scored a senior goal for his country.
Downing kept up his impressive club form, scoring in successive games in December 2014. The first was a deflected effort which won a point in a 1-1 draw at former club Sunderland and the second was a stunning strike in a 2-0 home win over Leicester, killing the ball with his first touch before bending a strike from distance into the corner of Kasper Schmeichel’s goal to seal the points after Carroll’s first half goal had put the Hammers in front. Downing began the calendar year of 2015 in a similar vein, scoring in a 3-0 home win over Hull, but the Hammers would tail off dramatically and end up finishing 12th. His final goal for the Hammers came in his last home match, giving the Hammers the lead against Everton with a trademark curled left-footed effort after cutting in from the right to give the Irons the lead – in a microcosm of the Irons’ season though, they would throw away the lead late on and lose the match 2-1.
Downing’s final match for the Hammers was the 2-0 defeat at Newcastle on 24th May, the final day of the 2014/15 season. He had made 79 appearances for the club in all competitions, scoring seven goals. He returned to his first club Middlesbrough later that summer in a £5.5m deal, dropping down to the Championship to seal a move back to his roots. He won promotion to the Premier League in the first season of his second spell, earning West Ham an extra £1.5m as part of the transfer deal. The top flight return was short-lived though, with an immediate relegation sending Middlesbrough and Downing back to the Championship. Now 34, Downing is still at the Riverside and aiming to secure a play-off place under Tony Pulis.
Montenegro v England
England face Montenegro this evening in their second match of Euro 2020 qualification – it will be the fifth meeting between the two nations. The pair have met for a European Championship qualifier in Podgorica once before, with the Three Lions drawing 2-2 to secure a spot in the 2012 Finals. The match was played in front of 12,000 at the Stadion Pod Goricom on 7th October 2011. Sak Noel was number one with ‘Loca People’, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy topped the UK box office and co-founder of Apple Inc., Steve Jobs, had passed away two days before at the age of 56.
Montenegro were dealt an early blow when Manchester United’s Ashley Young converted a Theo Walcott cross in the tenth minute to register his fourth goal for the Three Lions. Fabio Capello’s England doubled their lead just after the half-hour courtesy of a tap-in from Aston Villa’s Darren Bent, with Young this time the provider.
The hosts pulled one back with seconds of the first half remaining – Fatos Beciraj found Elsad Zverotic and the Young Boys player beat future Hammer Joe Hart courtesy of a deflection off Gary Cahill. The feature of today’s piece, Stewart Downing, entered the action in place of Young on the hour mark but Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney was sent off for lashing out at Miodrag Dzudovic in the 73rd minute, becoming only the second player to be dismissed twice for England after David Beckham. The red card meant Rooney would be suspended for the opening games of the tournament. Just as the clash entered stoppage time, Dzudovic crossed for substitute Andrija Delibasic of Rayo Vallecano to head in at the far post.
Montenegro: Mladen Bozovic (Videoton), Vladimir Bozovic (Rapid Bucharest), Stefan Savic (Man City), Miodrag Dzudovic (Spartak Nalchik), Elsad Zverotic (Young Boys), Fatos Beciraj (DInamo Zagreb), Milorad Pekovic (SpVgg Greuther Furth), Simon Vukcevic (Blackburn), Mladen Kascelan (LKS Lodz), Stevan Jovetic (Fiorentina), Mirko Vucinic (captain, Juventus).
Subs: Milan Jovanovic (Spartak Nalchik) for Kascelan; Dejan Damjanovic (FC Seoul) for Beciraj, Andrija Delibasic (Rayo Vallecano) for Vladimir Bozovic.
England: Joe Hart (Man City), Phil Jones (Man Utd), Gary Cahill (Bolton), John Terry (captain, Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Scott Parker (Tottenham), Gareth Barry (Man City), Ashley Young (Man Utd), Wayne Rooney (Man Utd), Darren Bent (Aston Villa).
Subs: Stewart Downing (Liverpool) for Young, Frank Lampard (Chelsea) for Bent, Danny Welbeck (Man Utd) for Walcott.
The previous articles in the series are:
Johnny ‘Budgie’ Byrne
Frank Lampard Senior
Sir Trevor Brooking
Frank Lampard Junior