Stewart Downing: Middlesbrough return vindicated by promotion
By James Walker-Roberts
Last Updated: 13/10/16 3:19pm
Stewart Downing believes his decision to return to Middlesbrough has been vindicated by the club's return to the Premier League.
The winger stepped down a division to return to his hometown club in 2015 from West Ham, with Boro boss Aitor Karanka admitting at the time that "nobody expected him to come here".
However, Downing played a key role in the 2015/16 season as Boro were promoted to the top flight.
"If I didn't feel that we could have challenged and got promoted I wouldn't have made that move," he told Sky Sports News HQ. "That's what I stressed to the people at West Ham and [manager] Slaven Bilic.
"For any other club I wouldn't leave, but it was my hometown club and I left on a bit of a sour note, five or six years ago with an injury and after a relegation, so it was nice to come back and put it right."
After winning promotion last season, Boro started life in the Premier League with two draws and a win from their first three matches.
Although they have lost three of four games since, Downing thinks they are still in a decent position ahead of the Super Sunday home clash with Watford.
"The start has been okay," he said. "We have had a lot of good performances, some we can do better from and get better results, but it's a difficult league and players are still settling in and getting used to it. We are still in a decent enough position.
"The players are thriving, we have lost some games but we have held our own. There will be many more tests to come but if we perform like I know we can then we will be fine."
Asked whether he thinks Boro have enough quality to stay in the division, Downing added: "I think we have, if we play how I know we can play, especially during the opening games when we played very well.
"But we have to do that every week. It's a hard league, you can't take your foot off the gas.
"If we are in a healthy position I am sure we will strengthen again in January and it will get us over the line, I am confident. If we can get a win this weekend it puts us in an even better position."