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Rodgers wants Downing to stay at Liverpool

ESPN staff
December 22, 2012 « Dodson chasing pigs & squirrels to prepare for Johnson | Chartbeat test »

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insisted he didn't want Stewart Downing to leave the club after the winger excelled during their 4-0 thumping of Fulham at Anfield.

Downing grabbed his first Premier League goal and assist for the Reds as they breezed past insipid opponents, prompting Rodgers to say the 28-year-old would nail down a permanent first team place if he can reproduce similar form on a regular basis.

After Martin Skrtel had smashed home Liverpool's opener, Downing's superb pass allowed captain Steven Gerrard to double their lead. The winger then cut inside former Reds defender John Arne Riise to fire home the third and Luis Suarez added a late fourth.

Rodgers had said Downing was free to leave if a suitable offer came in for him in January but the Northern Irishman said the player's reaction since that conversation had been exemplary.

"Stewart's been brilliant, he's a real good guy," Rodgers told ESPN. "I want him to be a part of the group here but at his age, we talked about him playing regularly and if the opportunity had come for him to go then him and I would look at it.

"But the reaction from that conversation six or seven weeks ago has been outstanding. He's played a lot of games and today I thought he was brilliant. If he keeps playing like that then he'll be in the team so there's no need for him to leave to get games.

"I always have wanted him to stay. It's not about me pushing him out the door, he's a quality player. When you arrive in the latter part of your twenties and you want to be playing regularly and obviously he wasn't at the time.''

Downing played down his role as Liverpool bounced back in emphatic style from last week's 3-1 home defeat against Aston Villa. "Coming off a bad result against Villa, we let ourselves down, and the manager said we had to bounce back tonight and I thought we did that in style,'' he told ESPN.

"I'm just trying to work hard and take the opportunity when I'm given it. I'm here to play and as long as I get the opportunity I'll try my best.''

Both Downing and defender Skrtel are now desperate to use the win as a springboard to greater things after Liverpool moved up to eighth in the Premier League.

"I think we've been a bit nervy at home at times but I think it's time to get a ruthlessness at home,'' said Downing. "The goals you've seen tonight are four quality goals and it's a case of doing it consistently and not now and again. We need to kick on in the new year and climb the table.''

Slovakia international Skrtel added: "We've got a target for the top four at the end of the season and now we just want to be as close as we can.''

Of his side's overall performance, Rodgers added: "We performed as well as that in a lot of the games to be honest but never always got the result. Today was outstanding in every element of our game.''

Martin Jol admitted Fulham had let themselves down. "We conceded cheap goals and then we played against ourselves because there were too many disappointments,'' said the Dutchman. "Overall it wasn't good enough.''

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