Downing admits joining Liverpool's been a culture shock
Published 22:30 22/02/12 By David Anderson
Stewart Downing admits he has struggled to adapt to life at Liverpool, claiming it has been a “culture shock”.
A first-team regular for most of his career at previous clubs Middlesbrough and Aston Villa, Downing says he has found it hard having to fight for a place since his £20million summer switch to Anfield.
The England winger has started just 18 of Liverpool’s 34 games this season, and says the pressure to deliver each time he does take the field is far more intense than it was at either Boro and Villa.
Downing’s form has been erratic and he has scored just once, but claims he is getting used to the high standards required by his new club.
“It’s been a bit up and down,” said the 27-year-old. “Some good games, some indifferent ones.
"I have been on the bench sometimes, whereas at other clubs I’ve been used to playing every week more or less.
“That’s been hard to get used. It’s been a little bit of a culture shock almost, but I have adapted to that and you just have to be ready when you get called upon to play.
“I expected pressure, but I didn’t expect it to be as big as it has been.
"You are under the microscope every day. In every game, people are looking at you.
“But that’s Liverpool, and that’s why you want to be here. You have got to blank everything out. You want to be at a club that is challenging every week and is pushing you on as a player.”
Downing has resisted any urge to sulk about being dropped and says the only way to sway manager Kenny Dalglish is by putting in lots of effort between matches.
“The easy thing would be to just spit the dummy and say there’s no pointing hanging around,” he said. “All you can do is work hard and keep training well - Kenny has stressed from day one that if you don’t train well, you won’t be in the team.
“Kenny sees everything. He watches training every day and if you’re not doing well or you spit your dummy out, you won’t be picked.
“You have just got to give him a problem by training well and make sure that he picks you.”
As Dalglish ponders his team for Sunday’s Carling Cup Final against Cardiff, Downing's fine display in the 6-1 FA Cup mauling of Brighton has certainly given the Reds' boss a problem.
The Teessider was determined to catch his eye against the Seagulls and tormented the Championship side's defence, setting up Andy Carroll for his goal.
“In the back of my mind, I knew the final was around the corner and so it was important to play well against Brighton,” said Downing. “It was a good performance from the team and Kenny was delighted at the end.
“I felt I was thoroughly involved against Brighton. You’ve just got to keep your head down and keep working hard. If you do that, good things will come and hopefully I will play some part in the final.”
Although Liverpool are red-hot favourites to win the Carling Cup for a record eighth time, Downing is wary of their Championship opponents, having been dumped out of the FA Cup by them as a Boro player in 2008.
“Cardiff will be a tough test,” he said. “I remember playing them with Middlesbrough in an FA Cup quarter-final. Everyone expected us to win at the Riverside, but they beat us 2-0.
"I know what they can do, so we have to be prepared.”