Downing response pleases Rodgers
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes winger Stewart Downing has benefited from a sympathetic ear and an honest appraisal of the situation facing him at Anfield.
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23. Stewart Downing
The England international produced arguably the best display of his 17-month Anfield career with his first Premier League goal for the club and first assist in the 4-0 dismantling of a woeful Fulham.
Yet only last week the 28-year-old had revealed Rodgers had told him he could leave in January if he was not happy.
The Reds boss admits there has been a marked improvement in Downing's form and puts that down to the response their frank and open exchange at the end of October.
"I think if you communicate with him you hope you can see a reaction," said Rodgers, whose move for Chelsea forward Daniel Sturridge is progressing with the player on Merseyside for a medical and further negotiations.
"You get some players like that. Some can manage themselves but you find with attacking players, because their job is to take people on, when things are not going quite right then they need that bit of support.
"But all they can do is work hard and you have to give massive credit to Stewart because he has reacted really well.
"Since then he has played a lot of games and he is a very important member of our group at the minute.
"If he keeps playing like that hopefully he will establish himself in there and show the talent he clearly has.
"If he wasn't playing then we would have looked at it (him moving) in January."
Downing has now started seven of the last eight matches, five of which have come in the league after previously making just one start in the opening-day defeat at West Brom.
His brilliant reverse-pass was instrumental in setting up Steven Gerrard for Liverpool's important second after Martin Skrtel's superb volley.
Then came the moment he had waited for, smashing his first league goal for the club he joined in July 2011, before Luis Suarez scored his 11th league goal of the season in added time.
"He is a good guy, he comes in every day to work hard and you saw his technique and quality yesterday but equally important was his fight," said Rodgers of Downing's display.
"He was clever in his pressing and I spoke to him again the other day just to thank him because in the last few weeks he's played left-back, left wing and right wing and he hasn't moaned and groaned he's got on with it.
"He is playing well at the moment and he fully deserved his man-of-the-match award."
Liverpool's win moved them up to eighth, their highest position of the campaign, and within five points of the top four.
Rodgers was impressed to see a positive reaction after last week's surprise defeat to Aston Villa.
"We have played as well as that if not better in a lot of our games at home but what is critical is getting that first goal and if you follow it up with a second it really helps," he said.
"I think we had everything in our game: intensity, pressure and goals and four goals with a clean sheet is equally important.
"We have been improving steadily right the way through the season and you see the confidence in the team.
"We know there will be tough games but our only focus is the next game, which will be difficult at Stoke.
"Over this period there are four games in quick succession and it is a great opportunity to pick up points."
Fulham have won just once in 10 matches and are only five points above the relegation zone.
Manager Martin Jol was dismayed at their abject display at Anfield but admits the side has changed so much over the last seven months he should not be surprised.
"In May we played with Danny Murphy, Mousa Dembele and Clint Dempsey," he said.
"Then we played with (Mahamadou) Diarra, (Steve) Sidwell and Bryan Ruiz and now we play with (Giorgios) Karagounis, (Kieran) Richardson and Chris Baird.
"The first nine or 10 matches were fantastic but after that we had a few problems with personnel and that shows."
The Cottagers now face home games against Southampton and Swansea before a New Year's Day trip to West Brom.
"They are very important but we need more conviction than we had yesterday otherwise we'll have a problem," added Jol.