Quotes from Stewart Downing this morning will have ended most Villa fans cheery mood after the weekend ended well on a disappointing season after the 26-year-old confirmed to the Northern Echo that he would not be signing a new contract at the moment.Villa’s Player of the Year looks set to follow the suit of Gareth Barry, James Milner and seemingly Ashley Young before him, in letting his contract run into its final year in order to keep his options open, or in other words look for a move next season. The phrase the grass isn’t always greener is a familiar one to Villa fans nowadays who have seen their star players leave on cut price deals and the recurrence is an end of season tradition right now, and frankly becoming a joke.
Downing has been linked with a move to Liverpool, and more recently Arsenal, after an impressive campaign in which he shone, but importantly I might add, when every other ‘star’ around him was merely flickering. The revelations come only a matter of weeks after the winger claimed that he was delighted that Villa were offering a new contract and is certainly a kick in the teeth.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think he’ll leave this season, but having seen a line of people before him do the same, it will be seen as a way of maneuvering a move to the ‘big 4, 5, 6’ or whatever. The fact that Villa can’t seem to persuade their best players to commit to the club is a real worry and something that happens at Villa Park more than their rivals. Ashley Young and Downing only need to look at Milner, who is some way better than both of them in my opinion, and see the bit part role he ‘enjoys’ at Manchester City. A more extensive rant on player loyalty will no doubt come later don’t worry, but for now, here are Downing’s quotes from his interview.
“It was hard when I first moved to Villa because I spent the first seven months in the gym,” said Downing. “I was disappointed with my first season, it ended with me thinking that I had never really hit top gear.
“I had never been injured like that before and it took some getting over. There were a few bright moments for me, but I just never really felt I had got into full flow.
“This year has been totally different, even though the manager who took me to Villa, Martin O’Neill, left and that was strange. He was one of the main reasons why I went to Villa.
“It was difficult when he left, everything changed. It took some getting used to, but credit to the new manager (Gerard Houllier) he led the team through a very good run in the end and I have enjoyed being such a big part of the team.
“I know the club are keen for me to extend my contract as I only have two years left on my deal and that my agent (Struan Marshall) had a recent meeting with our chief executive (Paul Faulkner). However, I am 26 and at a major crossroads in my career so I won’t be committing to a new deal at the moment.”
“I want to keep playing and enjoying my football. When I was injured that made me realise what it can be like to be out for such a long time. It hurt. The most important thing is to play football, but I do want to play in the Champions League at some point.
“The most important thing for me, though, is to stay fit and then the rewards will come with that, hopefully. I have got back into the England squad, I have to make sure I stay there.
“It was horrible to miss the World Cup last year, but I was not the only one. Looking back it was probably because I was injured for much of that season that I never made it.”
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