Stewart Downing: Middlesbrough are 'Premier League' standard

Boro ambition swayed Downing move

Stewart Downing says Middlesbrough's ambition was key to his decision to drop into the Championship from Premier League side West Ham United.

The England international winger, 31, returned to his hometown club for £5.5m, after playing 37 top-flight games for the Hammers last season.

"This is a Premier League club," Downing told BBC Look North.

"If this was a team fighting relegation or mid-table, it wouldn't be good for me to come back."

Downing, who has agreed a four-year deal, continued: "These players were very unlucky not to be promoted last season.

"The manager [Aitor Karanka] said if he can keep most of the squad together and add the players he wants to get in then we'll get in for automatic promotion.

"That's what he's drilling into the players and we've got to believe it's going to happen."

Close to a milestone
Since making his professional debut for Middlesbrough in May 2002, Downing has made 493 appearances in all competitions, scoring 50 goals.

After departing Middlesbrough for Aston Villa in 2009, Downing went on to play for Liverpool and West Ham before his summer switch to the Riverside.

The deal was created for Karanka by the financial backing of long-serving chairman Steve Gibson.

Gibson was at the helm when Downing left Boro six years ago, and remains committed to them restoring their top-flight status, despite their play-off final defeat by Norwich in May.

"He's never changed since I first met him - his vision and ambition," Downing added. "It must be great for the manager, it gives him time to build a team and money to sign players.

"After speaking to the manager you can see he's happy, there are still three or four to come in and we'll have a right go this season."