Middlesbrough winger Stewart Downing admits the decision to leave West Ham United for the Championship promotion contenders was "very easy". The England international moved back to the Riverside Stadium six years on from leaving the north east, after being offered a central role by manager Aitor Karanka.
The 31 year old's departure from the Premier League came as a surprise after he enjoyed a stellar campaign with the Hammers, scoring six goals and making eight in 37 league appearances; form which saw him reclaim his place in Roy Hodgson's England squad. Signing a four-year deal with the club, Downing is expected to see out the remainder of his career in the north east.
Despite the chance to play in Europe with West Ham in their final season at Upton Park and cement his place in England's squad ahead of next summer's European Championships, Downing chose to drop down a division. Middlesbrough are hopeful of going one better than last season, where they were defeated in the Championship play-off final by Norwich City. "I'd spoken to the chairman [Steve Gibson] and Aitor and they had good plans here and were looking to strengthen the team," Downing said, according to the Sunderland Echo. "He wanted me to be part of that playing as a number 10 or as a wide man.
"For me, it was a very easy decision to make. The chairman asked if I was up for it and I said 'if you can make the deal happen and you get me out of West Ham then I'm happy to come back'. I gave my word that if it happens then I'll be straight back. Fair play to the chairman, he did it and got me back as quickly as he could."
Downing has also revealed that Middlesbrough's rivals Sunderland made an offer for his services. "Sunderland did make an offer to West Ham, but once I'd been given permission to speak to Middlesbrough, there was only one place I wanted to come," he told BBC Tees.
"It was a challenge for me and I know some people questioned me coming to play in the Championship. I wanted something to play for and thought it was the perfect time to come home."