Downing: I don't want to leave
Liverpool winger Stewart Downing admits manager Brendan Rodgers telling him he could leave provided a "kick up the backside".
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Downing insists he never wanted to move on but the message from the Northern Irishman meant he had to start seriously considering he may not have a future at Anfield.
Downing was left confused and surprised by his continued absence from the first team - hinting that the decision had not been made on football grounds.
"I wanted to stay, I didn't want to leave but it was out of my hands," said the 28-year-old.
"I was out of the team and frustrated and I said if something big came up I'd look at it.
"We had that conversation and, to be honest, I thought I was on my way in January.
"I was a little bit surprised when he (Rodgers) said I could go.
"He came in and was pleased with me at the start and then all of a sudden things changed quickly and I could go.
"I don't know who makes that decision but one minute I was being told I was doing well and the next I was told I could go. It was a bit confusing.
"But it is a kick up the backside. I then had nothing to lose as I was going.
"If it was a gee-up for me then maybe it's worked because the performances are coming now."
Having started the first Barclays Premier League match of the season Downing did not make another league start until November 25.
He has now featured in the first-choice side in seven of the last eight in all competitions and put in arguably his best performance in the 4-0 win over Fulham with his first league goal and assist since joining the club in the summer of 2011.
11. Stewart Downing
"I've waited a long time for it (the goal) but the most important thing was the win," he said.
"I'm enjoying it because I'm playing some games and I'm looking to stay in the team, score some goals and hopefully do well.
"It seems to be coming together and I'm pleased because it has been hard work at times but you have to keep going, being strong and I got my reward and hopefully it continues in the new year.
"It's been good for the last couple of months and I am pleased it has come together because I've worked hard to get to a club like this and I don't want to leave in a hurry."
As Downing searched for improved, consistent performances, he was shunted around the line-up, playing left-back on occasions.
But the switches may actually have helped him because when restored to an attacking role, as he was against the Cottagers, he suddenly came alive again.
"My form has been up and down and so sometimes when you're left out there is not much you can really say but just perform when you get a chance," he added.
"I've had to do that at left-back at times and I'm not a natural left-back but I've tried my best when Jose Enrique has had an injury.
"The only thing footballers can do is play well and change the manager's mind."
Recent displays appear to have done that as Rodgers has now said if Downing maintains his form there is no chance of him leaving next month.
"The good thing is we have had open dialogue," said the winger.
"I speak to him if I have a problem and if he has something to say to me he can speak to me, so from that point it has been good.
"He has been straight with me and said if something comes up in January them we'd look at it but if he's saying I'm staying then it's a funny old game football.
"The only thing I can do is play well and make him keep me and pick me and that is all I am trying to do."
Downing's re-emergence as a creator and goalscorer took some of the limelight away from defender Martin Skrtel whose impressive volleying technique produced the eighth-minute opener against Fulham.
A brilliant reverse-pass from the winger allowed the charging Steven Gerrard to score the second before Downing's long-awaited first league goal arrived with Luis Suarez capping off the victory in added time.