Stewart Downing backs Boro to hold their own in Premier battle

Stewart Downing puts the pressure on Crystal Palace keeper Steve Mandanda in last months Riverside clash. Picture by Tom Collins
Stewart Downing puts the pressure on Crystal Palace keeper Steve Mandanda in last months Riverside clash. Picture by Tom Collins

Stewart Downing has allayed fears that MIddlesbrough may be set for a season of struggle, saying that he has confidence the Teessiders will move up the table.

Boro have only won one of their first seven games of the campaign since returning to the Premier League and are searching for their maiden home win of the season, with Watford the visitors on Sunday (1.30pm kick-off).

Downing rejoined Boro last season from West Ham to play a part in their successful promotion, and is desperate to avoid an immediate return to the Championships.

Boro haven’t been disappointing since August, but neither have they found adapting to the top-flight simple.

Downing, however, is optimistic that they can go on a winning run.

“The start has been okay,” the former England international, who graduated through the Riverside academy, told Sky Sports.

“We have had a lot of good performances, some we can do better from and get better results, but it’s a difficult league and players are still settling in and getting used to it. We are still in a decent enough position.

“The players are thriving. We have lost some games, but we have held our own.

“There will be many more tests to come, but if we perform like I know we can then we will be fine.”

Boro’s imperious defence of the previous seasons has been more porous than it has been accustomed to, but Downing says that the quality of the dressing room isn’t in question.

He added: “I think we have (enough to stay up), if we play how I know we can play, especially during the opening games when we played very well.

“But we have to do that every week. It’s a hard league – you can’t take your foot off the gas.

“If we are in a healthy position, I am sure we will strengthen again in January and it will get us over the line. I am confident.

“If we can get a win this weekend, it puts us in an even better position.”

Despite being a regular at the Hammers before returning to Boro, Downing has no regrets about his decision to relocate to the North East.

“If I didn’t feel that we could have challenged and got promoted, I wouldn’t have made that move,” he went on.

“For any other club, I wouldn’t leave, but it was my hometown club and I left on a bit of a sour note, five or six years ago with an injury and after a relegation, so it was nice to come back and put it right.”

Boro’s sole win this term remains the 2-1 triumph at Sunderland in August.