Preparations for the new season are already underway as Liverpool FC, under new manager Brendan Rodgers, look to repair some of the damaged pride from last season’s eight place finish.
Rodgers welcomed the first set of players back to Melwood today with an interactive session.
And as he prepares them for the battle of supremacy in the Premier League, the spotlight—inevitably—starts to move back over those players deemed to be misfits at Liverpool FC.
Players like Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson, and Jay Spearing to name a few.
But listing Stewart Downing as a misfit—a player who performs well below-par and fails to produce the expected goods—is a bit of a tough cookie.
And let me explain to you why.
Stewart Downing did draw flak for his lack of goods during the one-year spell that he has had so far with the Merseysiders.
His tally of 36 appearances without a single goal or an assist to take credit for is downright appalling for a player who has represented his country over 30 times.
Yet, there are those who believe that the team’s undoing isn’t entirely on Stewart Downing for the whole squad is to be blamed for lack of performances at various critical junctures that ultimately proved to be too costly for Kenny Dalglish.
Downing’s UEFA Euro 2012 trip wasn’t something to remember as he failed to make a single appearance for Roy Hodgson’s team with the former Liverpool manager instead preferring Downing’s former Aston Villa teammate Ashley Young despite the latter’s unexpectedly shocking performances.
Unlike the others mentioned earlier, Downing did partake in a majority of league encounters for Liverpool and played his part with all he that he could offer.
He sprinted, dribbled, crossed and at times even defended down his flank—left and right—fulfilling all major responsibilities of a winger.
And when the dust settled on things, Manchester was painted blue and Downing was subjected to heavy ridicule—especially on social networking sites—for his rather unimpressive stats.
The number of passes made, the number of tackles made, the number of chances created all meant nothing against the big two zeros that Downing had to show for in his assist and goals chart.
Maybe the crosses weren’t at a perfect height for Andy Carroll—who too was on a lull during this period—to score from. Maybe the partnership with Jose Enrique didn’t turn out to be as successful as Dalglish and other peers envisioned it to be.
Maybe he had troubles constantly switching flanks thus sacrificing personal gains for the team’s cause.
It all meant nothing against the big two zeros.
And it would still mean nothing when the new season kicks in and Downing is still at Liverpool.
He now faces the daunting task of having to start from scratch because his first year at the club amounted to nothing in terms of contribution.
Rodgers’ proposed new style of play requires maximum efforts from its wingers who need to have the pace, tactical awareness and the ability to press, intercept and take the ball forward into attacking positions. Downing’s ball skills are a major worry when it comes to this system.
With respect to squad strength, Downing isn’t really the player of concern for Rodgers as he will first seek to fill the void created by Dirk Kuyt’s departure from the club.
And Rodgers will understand the need and importance to fill the right winger slot more than trying to replace Downing and make matters worse than it already is.
What Downing needs is some healthy competition to keep his performance levels from dipping and Liverpool have got the perfect boy in Raheem Sterling to do exactly that.
Which is why letting him know that there are candidates ready to knock him off the ladder will help remind the player of the task at hand and the necessity to spend all focus on that.
But supporters can take heart from the fact that Downing is as industrious as they come and has the character and mental capacity to focus and play for the team’s cause.
Downing would know that it takes hard work to achieve anything in life. And he would know it better than anyone having worked his way up the ladder from his time at Middlesbrough.
All he needs to do is to hit the ground running and put in an effort with all his heart into it and hope for luck to shine on him this time.
After all, luck tastes sweeter the second time.
As it stands, Downing deserves complete faith and trust of the supporters as long as he is a member of Liverpool Football Club.