When Stewart Downing joined West Ham United from Liverpool in August, it sparked mixed feelings. The majority of Hammers fans did not understand why Allardyce was bringing in yet another winger as the club already had Matt Jarvis, Ricardo Vaz Te and Matt Taylor.
It was clear that West Ham’s priority should have been to bring in a striker as Andy Carroll was injured and the Irons were misfiring with Modibo Maiga leading the line. But Downing has turned out to be a bargain. Admittedly the former Middlesbrough man failed to show his best during his time on Merseyside, but he was impressive in the early stages of his career with Middlesbrough and Aston Villa.
In fact, he was so productive for the latter that Liverpool were willing to pay £20m for Downing. In the recent win at Villa Park, Downing looked as confident on the ball as he did when he was with the Villains. His close control took him past Chelsea loanee Ryan Bertrand with ease to set up captain Kevin Nolan for the opener. He continued to torment Bertrand all afternoon and although he was improving every game before that, this was by far his best performance for the Hammers.
Downing has been scrutinised by football fans since his big-money move to Anfield, but it seems that he is finally regaining his confidence since making the move to East London. His crossing has been a major threat to opposition defences and he has shown exactly why Allardyce bought him in ahead of a striker.
One glaring omission from his time at Boleyn Ground so far is that he is still yet to find the back of the net for the Irons. Allardyce has been ruing missed chances all season and the fact that Downing is still searching for his first West Ham United goal will be a concern for Allardyce. As a wide player, Big Sam would have hoped that the England international would be chipping in with his fair share of goals this season, but that has not been the case.
Allardyce and Hammers fans alike, will be hoping that he can get off the mark sooner rather than later. Another concern is that although Downing’s crossing has been excellent so far this season, he has only grabbed two assists. But in Downing’s defence, he has only started a handful of games with first choice striker Andy Carroll.
What is clear from his recent performances is that Downing is beginning to improve significantly and Allardyce will be hoping that he keeps his recent form up. If he does, then it is highly likely that he can steer the Hammers further clear of the relegation zone, and lead the Hammers to a mid-table finish.