ONSIDE: Downing return would be Stew-pendous

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THE social network rumour mill was churning, the buzz around the Boro building – was Stewy Downing coming home?

Well, in short, no.

The loan transfer has now passed without movement in or out of the Riverside meaning, until January at least, the North Stand won’t spend 90 minutes with their hands pointing out to the left flank demanding the ball immediately fed to the wing wizard’s magical feet.

How close we were to securing the signature of Downing and in doing so ruining the chance of any Championship right back getting a good nights sleep the night before facing the Boro remains to be seen.

Granted, since his move to Merseyside the “out-and-out winger” who left Boro fans drooling and became a permanent fixture in England squads, seems to have gone into hiding.

He doesn’t look like the same player who burst onto the Premier League scene with Boro, immediately alerting the envious eyes of managers throughout the country.

There was even talk of the silky Pally Park flanker solving England’s long and frustrating search for a left sider.

But Downing remains a class act and would have undoubtedly tore up full backs in the second tier.

It’s only since the drop to the second tier when Boro fans have realised the pros and cons of the loan system.

When used correctly, it can prove a managerial masterstroke.

Ball-playing Josh McEachran is a footballer on-the-up who will benefit from a year in the often rough-and-tumble Championship.

Johnjo Shelvey did exactly that from his stint at Blackpool last year.

But the dangers of the loan system are perfectly summed up in two words – Caleb Folan.

One of Gareth Southgate’s final acts was to bring in the Hull forward who to be perfectly honest did absolutely nothing other than pull a hamstring in a Boro shirt.

He was the first loan calamity since we were relegated to the new world of the Championship and he wasn’t the last.

Gordon Strachan’s attempt to carve out a new forward line in the shape of Marcus Bent and Dave Kitson failed terribly and Jay O’Shea barely kicked a ball in anger.

Mikel Tavares came and went without staking a claim for a permanent contract – incredibly he is now a Fulham player.

While last year the signing of Adam Hammill, which was initially met with excitement, proved another loan no-no.

He had a tendency to run into dark alleys and I can’t remember him coming out of many with the ball at his feet.

Downing is a different kettle of fish.

And while I can’t help but fear we have missed our chance, signing him in January would provide a huge boost both on the training pitch and in the stands.