Liverpool Fan: West Ham's Million Downing Is The Bargain Of The Summer...
They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and in Sam Allardyce’s case he’s clearly been rummaging through the bins at Melwood, taking not one, not two, but three of Liverpool’s expensive cast-offs within the space of a year, with Stewart Downing joining Andy Carroll and Joe Cole in swapping Merseyside for London to join West Ham, practically bankrolling Liverpool’s entire spending so far this summer.
Few Liverpool fans will mourn the loss of Downing, but more lament the drastic losses The Reds made on the trio. Liverpool recouped just over £20m for Carroll and Downing, who at least stayed fit and managed to play - and, whilst Joe Cole was a bosman signing, he got practically every penny of the four-year, £120k+ a week contract that he signed from Liverpool – taking the is well in excess of £40m, and probably much closer to £50m; a truly eye-watering amount when you consider their absence from the Champions League is now extending to its fourth season.
Downing was signed by Kenny Dalglish to be the man who gave Carroll the service he needed to finally prosper; the final piece of the proverbial puzzle. He was never worth £20m, but Dalglish clearly identified him as a player who was integral to his plans, and the club backed him and were prepared to pay what was required to complete the deal. A player’s price tag, rightly or wrongly, is always used as a barometer to judge his performances, and Downing never looked like living up to his during his time at Anfield.
He lacked a bit of luck as he created plenty of chances, but we failed to convert them, a problem which has plagued us for the past few seasons. There was one period of play on Downing’s competitive debut against Sunderland when he picked the ball up in his own half, went on a mazy run, beating three Sunderland players before unleashing a thunderous shot from outside the box that crashed back off the crossbar. Had that gone in and his career started with a bang who knows what might have happened, but instead he went that whole season with a goal or assist in the Premier League.
He is such a frustrating player to have in your team as he has all the talent to be one of the best wingers in the league; he’s deceptively quick, has a good touch, and is comfortable with both feet. His problem, unfortunately, is lacking the mentality to succeed. Whilst all players rely on confidence, Downing lacks that ruthless self-belief that all top players have at the highest level. If the going got tough, Downing went hiding. To be fair, Downing did force his way back in to Brendan Rodgers’ plans, and he was a mainstay in the team over the second half of the season, playing relatively well, but it’s clear to see why he wanted to sell him for someone who offers more of a goal threat.
You can usually tell in the first ten minutes or so after the first few times he takes on an opposition full back whether Downing will have a good game or not; if he was able to go beat his man and get a cross in, he’d usually play well. If he got no joy out of the defender he’d spend all game looking like he was about to do something but just knocking it back to Glen Johnson, or, at best, hitting it off the defender to win a corner. The last attribute may be something West Ham find useful, but Liverpool are as good at attacking corners as a bull in a circular room.
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This is meant as no disrespect to West Ham, but he’ll be under far less pressure to perform there than he was at Liverpool; many of our fans still inexplicably consider us to be a top four club so expectations are far higher than they should be. With that said, it would not surprise me to see him recapture the form that made him Villa’s player of the season, and maybe even force his way back in to the England squad – it is Roy Hodgson in charge after all. In fact, £6m for someone of his ability and experience may turn out to be one of the shrewdest signings of the summer.
Allardyce’s methods and style of play have long been derided in certain quarters, but there’s no doubt that, relatively speaking, his teams are effective at what they do. With Matt Jarvis and Ravel Morrison already at the club, Downing will only provide further depth and quality in the wide positions, and it’s no surprise to see Carroll pleased that the two are reunited. It’ll be sod’s law that the duo will link up well and show the type of form that Dalglish and Comolli envisioned when they signed the two of them, which is ironic as if the pony-tailed pisshead didn’t miss so many of the chances Downing created then all four of the aforementioned gentleman would probably still be at Liverpool.