Slaven Bilic has revealed he didn’t want Stewart Downing to leave West Ham United ahead of the new season.
The former England international enjoyed an impressive campaign at Upton Park last term, featuring all but one of their Premier League matches and scoring six goals as well as assisting in eight more. And with two years left on his contract, he was expected to continue in this form under Bilic this time round.
However, Downing had been linked with a return to Middlesbrough, his first club, in recent weeks, and this week he completed a switch to the Riverside Stadium for an initial £5.5million. And whilst the 30-year-old leaves the capital with the best wishes of the Hammers, Bilic admits he wanted to keep the winger.
“I didn’t want him to go, he’s a quality English player and I know how hard it is to get the quality ones,” said the Croatian. “I tried to persuade him to stay with us. He was brilliant in the first half of last season. I was counting on him big time, but he told me that he wanted to go home. He said, ‘I like you and everything, but I want to go home. If it was any other club, I would stay here’.”
For Downing, his objective will now be to return Boro to the Premier League, something which would result in the Teesside club paying the Hammers a further £1.5million. During his first spell at the Riverside, the former Aston Villa and Liverpool star played 234 times in all competitions, scoring 22 goals.