No assists? It's not my fault Liverpool strikers miss their chances, says Stewart Downing

 

If we're talking disgruntled England internationals left at home, imagine how Manchester City's Adam Johnson must feel. The player who has taken the squad position he coveted has just completed a season with neither a goal nor an assist for his club side.

Managers like taking a punt on Liverpool's Stewart Downing, though. He has not always shone with England and admitted a few years ago that the international scene was a "chore", given the boos he received in Israel and Andorra as the 2008 European Championship qualification campaign faltered.

Yet he was the only outfield player to take some part in all nine England matches during 2011 and the inherent bashfulness which is part of his make-up obscures the fact that he is now one of the old guard, who played three games at the 2006 World Cup, though he missed South Africa through injury.

Roy Hodgson will like the defensive reassurance that the 27-year-old's work-rate will provide alongside Ashley Cole but it will be a measure of the manager's current austerity England if Downing and James Milner occupy the flanks against France in Donetsk on Monday. They have 60 caps between them and not a goal to their name.

To those who put Downing's problems down to a lack of mental strength – and there are plenty on Merseyside who do – it should be said that he offered a robust defence yesterday of his season without one score or assist.

"The assist thing? I've constantly set up chances, as I did at Aston Villa and Middlesbrough and have done at Liverpool, season in and season out," Downing said. "I can't be criticised for not creating. I'm in the team to do that and I've done that throughout the season. I've just been unlucky that we've not finished the chances.

"Stats have taken over the game: he doesn't score this, he hasn't set up that... You can read into it as you like. If you look at what I did at Aston Villa, those chances got put away. Last season I was on a par with that, but at Liverpool they didn't [get put away]. It seemed to take us four or five chances to score a goal."

The failure to score was the part he held up his hand to, though. "The goal thing is [embarrassing], the fact that I didn't get enough goals." For Hodgson, Downing's early combination in Oslo with Andy Carroll – whom the manager seems tempted to use against France – will also have registered. For Joe Hart, Downing is the squad's great conundrum. "It's surprised me how he's not scored," the keeper said. "I watched goalkeepers go to Anfield week in, week out and have the games of their lives."

Downing in figures

36 League games without a goal or assist this season.

£20m Amount paid by Liverpool to Aston Villa for Downing last summer.

185 Minutes per assist for England, the best in the Euro 2012 squad.

49 Downing has played 49 minutes of tournament football for England - all in 2006.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before