Sunderland 1 West Ham 1: Angry Sam Allardyce accuses England of playing Stewart Downing when not fit

Jozy Altidore produced one of the misses of the season as Sam Allardyce fumed

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The Independent Football

Sam Allardyce, the West Ham manager, has accused England of giving Stewart Downing an injection in his knee before the victory against Scotland last month and then playing him when he was not fit.

Downing was once more the star man for a rejuvenated West Ham United side in their 1-1 draw at Sunderland on Saturday. His 25-yard strike at the halfway mark cancelled out a penalty that looked dubious, given after Adam Johnson went down under the mildest of challenges from James Tomkins and converted by Jordi Gomez.

Allardyce called for Downing to be given another chance with England under Roy Hodgson after being the game’s most creative player by a distance.

 

“England? He shouldn’t have played for England because he had been injected after getting a problem with his knee,” revealed Allardyce. “It didn’t do him any favours as he wasn’t 100 per cent fit.

“I don’t think anyone should judge Stewie on what happened for 45 minutes against Scotland. I think he should get the opportunity to go again and if he plays like he played against Sunderland then there are not too many playing as well as Stewart Downing at the moment in the Premier League.”

Allardyce added: “They [England] did the injection.” He was asked if he was unhappy with that and said: “No comment.”

Downing continues to thrive in a deeper, more  central role. “He has gained the freedom to be able to pop up in different areas of the pitch, find space and turn and run at defenders,” added Allardyce. “He not only did that, but he scored as well. He got one at the back end of last season, but he has got three already [this season] and it should have been six or seven. I hope he continues in the same vein as he is a very big player for us at the moment.”

Downing himself said: “I haven’t enjoyed my football as much as this since I was at Aston Villa. It’s a very similar feel to Villa, the same sort of team – counter-attacking with pace and power. The way we play is similar, a good dressing room where everyone chips in. You can see we’re playing with confidence.

“Villa finished in the top six [in 2009-10] and if we keep playing the way we are, so can we. We’ve got a hell of a chance.”

Allardyce was unhappy with the penalty award, accusing Johnson of diving. “Jonno knew he was going nowhere and the ball was going out of play,” he said. “He thought, ‘I’ll have a little fall down because the referee has to make a decision.’ It went in his favour. It was a dive.”

The incident did not help Allardyce’s mood at the time, and he argued at  pitchside with the referee’s assistant who gave the penalty, David Bryan.

The return to fitness of Andy Carroll has added a further dimension to West Ham, who went joint third in the Premier League table until Manchester United won yesterday. The former Newcastle  United forward chipped a ball onto the top of the Sunderland net and went agonisingly close at the death.

“I feel great right now,” Carroll said. “It was important for me to come back and stay injury-free. I feel all the work I did with the medical staff is paying off now, keeping me toned, keeping me strong.

“Now it’s great to get the 90 minutes under the belt that I need and that I want. I’ll be going into the busy programme feeling very fresh, maybe unlike most players.

“In a way it’s probably been more strenuous and more hard work getting myself fit rather than playing matches. It’s like I’ve just come back and had my pre-season and this is just the start of it. It’s my first few games back and I’m raring to go, feeling fit and feeling fresh.

“I thought I’d scored the winner right at the end. I took it down well and it was just an inch or so wide. I did all the right things, but it was just off target.”

A contrasting grim mood is descending on Sunderland, where the reality of just two victories in the Premier League is hitting home.

“The easiest way to solve all these problems is to get a player who can make the difference on his own,” said their manager, Gus Poyet. “We don’t have one at the moment.Unless someone wins player of the month, like Connor Wickham and Adam Johnson did last season, it is going to be boring draws all the time.”

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