Downing in attack on McClaren over England demotion

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The Independent Football

The Middlesbrough winger Stewart Downing has criticised the England manager Steve McClaren, claiming that he was unfairly singled out and dropped after England's 0-0 draw with Macedonia earlier this month.

The 22-year-old was not selected for the Euro 2008 qualification defeat in Croatia the following week, and questioned the reasons he was given for his omission.

Downing, who played under McClaren at Middlesbrough, said: "I knew we were going to get criticism after the Macedonia game because we didn't win. But I thought it was a bit harsh when just two players were singled out - Wayne Rooney and myself. But it's a team game and for me Ledley King was the only player who stood out.

"That was why I was disappointed when I was left out for Croatia. I explained to the manager that I wasn't happy and that if I was to be dropped other players should be as well. I know I shouldn't worry about other players but it's all for one and one for all. If one is dropped then the rest should be.

"Steve said he was changing the system - but I'd already played in that system for Middlesbrough in Europe. He agreed and said 'I know you were effective during the Uefa Cup'. I told him I accepted his decision because he's the manager. In the end, you have to get on with it and respect him, but at the end of the day I'm disappointed and I'll prove him wrong."

Downing said he was surprised when England's assistant manager, Terry Venables, said his omission was due his being affected by criticism from supporters.

"That wasn't the explanation I was told," Downing said. "The explanation was for tactical reasons. But by then the damage had already been done because I'd been criticised. The manager has since said to me I will still be involved but we'll wait and see. I feel like this was a missed opportunity."