Downing eyes England place
Stewart Downing believes he can beat the likes of new Aston Villa team-mate Ashley Young to a regular place in Fabio Capello's England side. He arrived at Villa's Bodymoor Heath training complex on crutches on Thursday to discuss terms and undergo a medical as he continued his recovery from foot surgery. The injury may delay the start to his Villa career, but Downing believes he has plenty of time to play his way into the centre of Capello's plans for next summer's World Cup finals. "I definitely want to play at next year's World Cup, so that's my aim - to get back to full fitness, get back playing and get myself in the England team for the World Cup," he said. "I don't just want to go there to sit it out this time either. I want to be in the team. "I loved the last World Cup, it was brilliant, but I want to play a bigger part this time. I have to be with a good Premier League side if I want to do that." Downing was denied a move to Tottenham in January after handing in a transfer request, but Boro chairman Steve Gibson promised him then he could leave if a big club came in for him this summer, and the Teessiders' relegation at the end of the last campaign simply opened the door wider despite his injury problems. He was part of the squad when then skipper Gareth Southgate lifted the 2004 Carling Cup at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, and played in the UEFA Cup final defeat by Sevilla two years later after the Teessiders' remarkable run to Eindhoven. Downing admitted leaving Boro was a "strange experience", but cited Villa boss Martin O'Neill as a major factor in his move. "As soon as I spoke to the manager at the training ground, I wanted to play for Villa and I wanted to play for him," he said. "He has great ambition and wants to build a good squad to take the club forward. I want to be part of that."
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