Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Downing injury could ruin summer plans

Stewart Downing's foot injury may have ended his season but it appears it may prolong his Boro career. It is widely accepted that Boro resolved the messy January transfer saga, when Downing handed in a transfer request, by agreeing to let the winger leave at the end of the season.

Initial reports suggest that the injury sustained after Stilian Petrov's clumsy challenge could rule Downing out for up to six months. The club are remaining coy but this summer's transfer plans will now be up for major revision.

Even if Boro somehow manage to evade relegation on Sunday, several departures are likely. Most observers expect Tuncay or Gary O'Neil to remain at the club next term, while relegation would surely curtail the Boro careers of high earners like Robert Huth. Ross Turnbull and Matthew Bates are out of contract and seem likely to move on other Premier League clubs.

Having received eight-figure bids from Spurs in January, the club were surely banking on receiving at least £10million for Downing this summer. That sum would have allowed the manager, whoever that will be, to add some new faces to the existing academy graduates to form the bulk of a squad to compete for promotion.

Having fought so long to keep Downing away from the White Hart Lane stalkers, the decision will be taken out of the hands of club and player if he is unable to pass a medical. With no transfer fee in the bank and Downing's top flight wages an unplanned presence on the books, the likes of David Wheater and Adam Johnson may have to be sacrificed to keep finances in shape.

When the final nail is driven into the coffin at Upton Park on Sunday, it will only be the start of a long and difficult summer. If Downing is forced into an unexpected cameo in the Championship, the task of rebuilding Boro will only become more complicated.

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