Downing grew up in Middlesbrough's Pallister estate and supported the club since his school days. He was considered one of the most promising graduates of the Middlesbrough Academy.His debut came on 24 April 2002 in a FA Premier League game away at Ipswich Town. He was limited to just three appearances during that season, plus a further three the following season despite scoring his first senior goal in a 4–1 League Cup victory over Brentford. He was sent out on loan to Sunderland in 2003 in order to gain experience. His first-team chances at Middlesbrough were limited due to the form of Bolo Zenden in the left-midfield slot. Downing's career began to take-off when he was recalled from his loan during an injury crisis and was pushed into the first-team.
The 2004–05 season saw Downing make forty-nine appearances, scoring six goals, as well as providing numerous assists. In a UEFA Cup match against S. S. Lazio in November 2004, both Downing and Zenden were in the starting lineup. Though Zenden scored both goals in the 2-0 victory, Downing drew praise for his performance down the left. Such performances that season saw him called up to Sven Göran Eriksson's England squad in February 2005 for a friendly against the... Read More