Downing is better than I thought - Dalglish
Published 22:00 20/01/12 By David Anderson
Kenny Dalglish insists Stewart Downing has performed better than expected since his £20million transfer.
The England winger still has to win over some sections of the Kop since his summer switch from Aston Villa, and has managed just one goal in 24 appearances for Liverpool.
Fans are frustrated that his best displays this season have been with three lions rather than a liver bird on his chest, but Reds boss Dalglish admits he has made it hard for Downing by playing him out of position.
“Stewart is a fantastic footballer, an England international, who made a big move in the summer to come here,” said the Liverpool manager.
“For me, he’s better than I thought he was going to be.
"I don’t think it’s been too comfortable for him because we’ve played him in two or three different positions. Maybe we have to look at ourselves and say we have to be fair as well.
“But he’s better than I thought he was. He’s a better footballer - he’s also quicker than I thought.”
Even though Downing has failed to get fellow new boy Andy Carroll firing, Dalglish refuses to judge the midfielder after six months.
He still believes in Downing and claims he needs more time to get used to Anfield’s intense spotlight.
“This is a massive club. With all due respect to the other clubs he’s been at, it’s going to take a little bit of time to get used to the surroundings, which is only natural,” he said.
“But we haven’t had any change of opinion on him as a player from what it was before.
“You have to be patient with every new player who comes in. But the most important thing is having the ability to play, and everyone in our squad has the ability to play.
"He’s got more crosses in than anyone else, according to the stats. That’s part of his job, and the other part is to put them in somewhere where we’re going to score goals from them.
“He can only do what he does, and that’s put some decent crosses into the box. Then we have to get on the end of them.”
Downing’s next chance to impress is at struggling Bolton in Saturday's tea-time match, when the Reds will try to register an 11th successive win over their north-west neighbours.
Dalglish feels for fellow Scot Owen Coyle as he tries to turn Bolton around, and claims his Trotters counterpart has not been helped by the board’s decision to sell England defender Gary Cahill to Chelsea now rather than lose him on a free in the summer.
“It has been difficult for Owen and Bolton this year, but I’m sure they will buckle down and get themselves out of the mire,” he added.
“Although financially it might have been a good deal for Cahill, I don’t know whether it was the best football decision for Owen - unless he has someone lined up to replace him.”