Stewart Downing is 'a different player now' says Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard - Premier League - Football - The Independent

Stewart Downing is 'a different player now' says Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard

Midfielder scored equaliser against Spurs at the weekend

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard believes team-mate Stewart Downing is a different player from earlier in the season and is finally showing his true quality.

The England winger scored for the second successive match in the 3-2 win over Tottenham, incredibly achieving the feat for the first time since back-to-back goals for Middlesbrough in October 2004.

He took his tally to five for the season, and while he is unlikely to eclipse his best goalscoring campaign of 10 in 2007-08 for Boro, he is closing in on the eight he got in his final season at Aston Villa before his £20million move to Anfield.

It is a remarkable turnaround for a player who, having struggled to hold down a regular first-team place, was told in December by manager Brendan Rodgers he could leave if the right offer came in.

"He's a different player now. Now we're seeing Stewart Downing the England international and why he has got all those caps," said Gerrard, who praised the 28-year-old's all-round contribution.

"What is impressing me the most about Stewart at the moment is the work he's doing for the team without the ball - sliding tackles, his double-marking with Glen Johnson and his effort.

"The stats that go up on the board after every game underline that.

"He's a different player and if he can keep producing those type of performances then it will be money well spent

"If he keeps to that level of consistency he can make that position in the team his own."

Downing felt the victory, rather than his goal, was significant as Liverpool beat a side in the top four for the first time this season.

It allowed them to move into sixth and close the gap to Champions League qualification to seven points with nine matches remaining.

"Earlier in the season we would probably have lost the game," Downing told liverpoolfc.com.

"But great credit to the lads, we kept going and the fans were right behind us.

"I'd say it was probably one of the best wins of the season.

"A lot of people have been saying we can't beat teams in the top five or six - that's out of the way now. Hopefully that will kick us on.

"It was nice for me to get a goal. There's no hiding from the fact that I struggled for goals last season, but this season I'm in among them and hopefully I can get plenty more. There's plenty of games to go to get the tally up.

"I'm full of confidence, even without the goals, playing in a good team and playing well gives confidence.

"The manager has got options now - if people are having an off-day they can always put someone on and they're liable to get a goal."

While Gerrard credited Downing's goal - to make it 2-2 - for the turnaround which allowed Liverpool to win three successive league matches for the first time since May 2011, the Reds' key player remained Luis Suarez.

The Uruguay international scored his 21st Premier League goal, 29th of the season and his 50th for Liverpool in his 91st match for the club.

It appears to be a three-way race for player of the year between him, yesterday's opponent Gareth Bale and Manchester United's Robin van Persie.

But for Gerrard there should be only one winner.

"We've got a player who is equally as good as him (Bale) in Luis Suarez," the 32-year-old told BBC Sport.

"I think Luis may just pip him to Player of the Year, in my opinion.

"He's been incredible. It's hard to put into words how good he's been.

"He's been doing that for us all season. Before the (summer transfer) deadline we never got that centre-forward and he's almost carried us on his own at times, because he was the only forward we had.

"He's top scorer in the league now. If he doesn't win an award this year, he'll be the best player ever not to win an award."

PA

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