The Northern Echo ran a ‘transfer exclusive' this week which suggested Stewart Downing is a SAFC transfer target. It also went on to state that a move for the West Ham midfielder could be made as soon as this week. However, on a more sceptical note it could be argued, this particular story is derived entirely from an assumption. The whole principal appears to be based on the following statement:
"West Ham United are entering a new era under Slaven Bilic and he could be willing to listen to offers for Downing following Sam Allardyce's exit."
COULD. Could be willing to listen to offers? The counter argument would be: ‘Says who?' There's no mention of where this notion has emanated from. Not even ‘sources close to the club'. Whilst it sounds plausible it's perhaps best to remain cautious until something more concrete emerges on the matter.
Another puzzling factor is, from a personal point of view, Downing has just come off one of his most successful seasons. Moved from the wing and into the centre, the midfielder has been a far more influential force in games and was arguably the Hammers' star man in 2014/15.
With West Ham about to enter into a ‘new era under Slavic Bilic' it feels more likely that the new manager would want to hold onto his best players rather than sell. However, it's not out of the realms of possibility, as in any transfer situation, if the deal meets the needs of all parties.
At 30, the England international would certainly add experience and some much needed attacking threat to our squad. Although it's likely Downing will be on a sizable salary and therefore may prove to be out of reach for Middlesbrough, the Championship side said to be also competing strongly for his signature.
The Teessiders will offer an emotional link to Downing given they are his hometown club. However it remains to be seen how Middlesbrough could enter into a financial contest with a Premier League club. Unless the player is willing to accept a decrease in wages, it's more likely we'd be out in front in any hypothetical chase for his signature. There's also a link to Sunderland too with Downing enjoying a loan spell on Wearside in 2003.
Assuming there's some substance to this story it shouldn't be too long before further developments are forthcoming. However early signs are that it appears to be more supposition that fact at this stage.