Downing hopes to repay faith in him shown by Capello

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The Independent Football

Fabio Capello is not known for concerning himself with players who are missing with injury, but he appears to have made an exception in the case of Stewart Downing.

Capello has singled out Downing for praise in the past, so the England manager will have been heartened to see the winger complete his first start for new club Aston Villa in Tuesday night's 4-2 Carling Cup quarter-final victory at Portsmouth. Downing had been out for seven months with a broken bone in his foot but looked remarkably sharp and rust-free in what was his full debut for Villa, the club he joined for £12m from Middlesbrough in the summer.

Downing, who marked his return to form and fitness with Villa's third goal at Fratton Park, was heartened that Capello had been on the phone recently, with encouraging words that demonstrate the 25-year-old is still in his plans despite his long absence with injury.

Downing said: "I was invited to go to a game to watch. He said, 'Don't rush yourself' in case I break down, but I haven't done. That gives me confidence. Once he spoke to me it shows I am still part of his plans, so the only thing I can do is keep playing well and score goals.

"The aim for me is the World Cup, but it probably is for six or seven of our team. They all want to be involved so it's going to be tough, but it's a good challenge. We are all trying to compete with each other. That is good competition for places. It's good for the manager to have those problems and it's also good for England."