In the aftermath of England's victory over Scotland earlier this week opinion regarding Stewart Downing's contribution has been lukewarm. Poor Stewie, having dragged himself back into the International frame with a stunning start to the season whereby he has been one of the best performers in the Premiership, found himself being forced to play out of position by Roy Hodgson and after a modest first 45 minutes was withdrawn at half time.
Downing's resurgence has been largely due to his positioning in an attacking central role rather than hanging off the edge of midfield playing out further wide but predictably Hodgson played him in his 'old' and less effective position. Admittedly, Downing looked somewhat nervous and a tad off his game, but if it was planned to only play him for 45 minutes then surely the second half would have been a better period in which to assess his abilities, when the frantic rush of an auld enemy clash would have settled (in so far as it ever does in those matches).
Downing, for his part, has commented with discipline about playing for the team etc etc but must surely be frustrated with the experience. Moreover, for us Hammers' fans, we were again reminded how international duties can clash with club activities as both Downing and Diafra Sakho picked up niggles whilst playing for their countries during the break. Dean Ashton deblah blah....Grrrrr.
As for Mark Noble, it really is time to get out the leprechaun suit and join Martin O'Neill's Irish squad. Unlike Hodgson, O'Neill is a manger who is always well attuned to the strengths of his players and makes the most out of the resources at his disposal. Watching Jeff Hendricks and Darren Gibson being overrun by Scotland's midfield last weekend only served to emphasise the massive addition Noble would be to the Republic of Ireland set up.
C'mon Nobes, step into the parlour and do your Cork grandparents proud.
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