Stewart Downing reveals why he is happy at Middlesbrough and praises Tony Pulis' impact
Stewart Downing says there is 'no better feeling' than playing for Middlesbrough, as he insists he remains happy at his hometown club.
The winger, now 34, has impressed for Boro this season as they target a return to the top flight after narrowly missing out last season.
A 2-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday on Friday evening saw the Teessiders return to the Championship summit - and Downing feels there is no reason why they can't stay there as the season progresses.
And the former Liverpool and Aston Villa man has also heaped praise on Tony Pulis for the impact he has had since moving to the Riverside Stadium.
Having begun his career at Middlesbrough, Downing is now glad to be back at his boyhood club as he enters the twilight years of his career.
“Boro's my hometown team and there's no better feeling than playing for your hometown club," he admitted, in an interview with Sky Sports.
“I wouldn't change it for the world.
“I feel fit and healthy, that's the main thing, I'm playing games, that's the most pleasing thing at the grand old age of 34 so I'm happy at the minute.”
One key factor in his continued enjoyment is Pulis, with Downing complimentary of the impact the experienced manager has had.
And while demanding, he knows the 60-year-old isn't as fearsome as he may appear.
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“He's obviously got a soft side, you see the passion on the TV, he's a very good motivator, he's very good in the dressing room,” added Downing.
“He's demanding, you've got to give 100% for him or you won't be here, you'll be out of the football club.
"That's what he demands and I don't mind that, he's straight talking, that's what players want.
"If he's not here for one or two days we have to keep the intensity in training, we have to train as if he was here.
"He runs the football club, he runs the team and if you ask any player they will tell you that. On the other side he can put his arm around a player."
Pulis' management style has Boro in a strong position as the Championship table starts to take shape.
But does Downing sense another promotion to the top flight is in the offing?
“It (the last time Boro went up in 2015/16) was a difficult season and we went up on goal difference in the end but it doesn't matter, it's about getting over the line isn't it,” he admitted.
“The biggest thing is how you bounce back after a defeat and I think we've been very good at that. We've got the squad, we've got the manager, we've started okay but we can get better.”