Taylor backs Downing to take wing for senior squad

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The Independent Online

The England Under-21 coach Peter Taylor has "no doubt" that Stewart Downing will eventually make the step up to the senior squad.

The England Under-21 coach Peter Taylor has "no doubt" that Stewart Downing will eventually make the step up to the senior squad.

Taylor believes that the Middlesbrough winger "fits the bill" as the wide left player that England have been seeking for many years.

Downing, 20, had been strongly tipped to be named in Sven Goran Eriksson's squad for last night's friendly international with Spain in Madrid. Instead, he continued his learning process as a substitute during the final half hour of the Under-21 defeat by the Spanish 24 hours earlier.

Taylor said: "Should he be in the seniors? That's not my decision. That's down to Sven. I think Stewart is in tremendous form. He has got a wonderful left foot and doesn't take any time in crossing the ball.

"He makes a lot of goals and has also scored some himself recently. But it doesn't mean straight away that you go and play for the seniors if you are in good form for your club. At times it takes a bit longer than that."

Taylor is aware of the growing pressure for Eriksson to call up Downing but believes that his progress is being carefully monitored by Steve McClaren, the Middlesbrough manager who works under the Swede for England.

Taylor said: "Steve McClaren is Sven's assistant so they are going to know about him in the senior staff meetings. Everyone is crying out for a wide left player for the seniors - at the moment Stewart fits that bill and I've got no doubt that he is eventually going to get into the senior squad. He is in great form and working very hard."

Taylor, a former England winger himself, feels that Downing is starting to have a bigger impact throughout matches.

"At the start of the season, people didn't think he performed from the start of the match and he was coming off the bench a lot," Taylor said. "But just recently he has played very well from the first whistle. He has looked toget hold of the ball and make more of an impact in the games.

"Before he was a quiet lad who came into the team at Middlesbrough and just got on with it. Now he is doing things to get the ball more.

"All I said to him is that when I played I used to drive the centre-forward and the full-back mad to make sure they gave me the ball all the time so that I looked a half-decent player.

"I think Stewart wants a lot of the ball and just lately he has been getting a lot of the ball, staying out wide - and he has delivered the goods."

Taylor feels he was justified in his decision to play Downing for only the final third of the Under-21s' 1-0 defeat.

He said: "If it had been a qualifying game he would have probably played 90 minutes, but it was a friendly and he had played 90 minutes for his club two days earlier.

"I don't think too many people would accept or expect him to go and play 90 minutes again so soon after in a friendly and I took that into account."

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