'He’s been outstanding for England, Liverpool, Aston Villa and West Ham': Woodgate makes Stewart Downing claim after Blackburn draw
Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate believes Stewart Downing should be offered a coaching role at the club’s academy when he retires.
The Boro-born winger returned to the Riverside as a Blackburn player on Saturday and was given a standing ovation when he was substituted late on.
Woodgate was pleased with the reception his brother-in-law received and heaped praise on the 35-year-old after the 1-1 draw.
When asked about the crowd’s reaction to Downing’s substitution, Woodgate replied: “I’m over the moon. I never had any doubt to be honest with you because the fans at this football club realise what he did from a young age coming through the academy.
“He’s the best player we’ve had through the academy and he’s gone on to be an outstanding player for England, at Liverpool, at Villa, at West Ham. Look at how many Premier League games he played.
“It’s fitting that Tony (Mowbray) brought him off and he got such a good reception - I was clapping him myself because he’s been an absolute unbelievable servant to this football club and we should never forget that.”
Downing spent two separate spells at Boro after coming through the club’s academy in 2001 and establishing himself as a Premier League player.
After spells at Villa, Liverpool and West Ham, the winger then returned to the Riverside in 2015 and helped his hometown club win promotion to the top flight.
Woodgate believes that Downing’s achievements deserve recognition from the club, and would like to see the player return to Boro in the future.
“What we should do when he retires from the game - in god knows how many years - he should be part of the academy,” added Woodgate.
“We should bring in players like that who’ve played for the football club and know what it means to play for the football club because the more the better.
“They can only enhance and teach the younger players who haven’t been in that situation. Stewy’s done it. He’s gone from growing up in Pallister Park to being a top Premier League player.”