Downing to step up recovery
Stewart Downing's suitors have been warned he still faces some time on the sidelines after being told he can step up his recovery from foot surgery. The 24-year-old Middlesbrough and England winger visited specialist James Calder in London on Tuesday, and was told the injury is healing well.
However, he is still facing further time on the sidelines and will return to have a pin removed in six weeks' time, before being able to start training in earnest. "The good news is that Stewart saw the specialist earlier this week and was given the go-ahead to star the next steps of his rehabilitation," said Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate.
"He was assessed and underwent tests, after which the specialist said the injury was progressing exceedingly well. He is now able to weight-bear, which he wasn't previously able to do, so he is definitely making progress. He will re-visit the specialist in six weeks' time and will have the pin taken out of the foot some time after that.
"In the meantime, Stewart's obviously delighted he can step up his rehab. He'll basically be doing some light training in the Rockliffe gym, mainly cycling, and also work in the pool. It's a long road back to full recovery but it's going very well and we know he is a quick healer, so there's every reason to be positive at this stage."
The most optimistic of estimates suggest Downing could be back in action by October, although Boro have privately played that down. If that were the case, it could persuade those Premier League club's monitoring his situation to make a move before the end of the January transfer window, something which looked unlikely when Downing injured his foot in the penultimate game of last season.
Aston Villa, who have been linked with a £20m double swoop for the Middlesbrough-born player and Turkey international Tuncay Sanli, are understood to be awaiting developments, while long-term admirers Tottenham Hotspur and Everton have also been mentioned in dispatches.
Spurs made their latest attempt to sign Downing in January, but were rebuffed by chairman Steve Gibson. However, he has promised the winger he can leave if a big club comes in with an acceptable offer, and with Boro's valuation in excess of £12m, that could provide Southgate with a significant transfer kitty as he reshapes his squad for life in The Championship.