A mere two days after Stewart Downing was linked to an £8 million move to east London, West Ham United assistant coach Neil McDonald has put a damper on the rumours, saying that the transfer is nothing but idle speculation at the moment.
"He’s a very good player," said McDonald. "A player of that calibre and West Ham being involved would be great, but it’s all paper talk at the moment."
This doesn't necessarily rule out the move becoming more than "paper talk", of course, but for now it ultimately leaves Downing exactly where he was three days ago: no suitors in sight and having to find a place for himself somewhere amidst all of Brendan Rodgers' shiny new recruits. Many have spent the better part of two years wondering what exactly it takes to get the winger's motor running, and the player himself believes that all he needs is a little competition.
"You need at least two or three players in every position to keep people on their toes, especially at a club like this," Downing said. "We're fighting on many fronts — cup competitions and the league — so you have to be strong in every department. But competition brings the best out of players, and hopefully it will in me.
"My targets will be similar to when I got back into the team last season — enjoy it, work hard and play some good football like we did at the end of last season. If we play like that again as a team, we've got a real chance of success. For me personally, I've just got to keep going."
One might have hoped for a little more gusto with his statements — an "I will fight to be a starter" in lieu of "I've just got to keep going" would not have been out of place — but that may be a tall order for a man who was most animated when shushing the home crowd. Regardless of past poorly received antics, it would seem Downing is back in the mix again when it comes to potential starting line-ups and it will be interesting to see how he figures into Brendan Rodgers' plans for the short term and whether that will be any predictor for the gaffer's long term intentions towards the player.
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