Middlesbrough legend, Stewart Downing has announced his retirement from professional football at the age of 37 years-old.
Downing graduated through Boro’s academy before making his senior debut against Ipswich Town in April 2002, prior to going on to score 70 goals in 715 appearances across all competitions for Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Aston Villa, Liverpool, West Ham and more recently – Blackburn Rovers.
In a statement, Downing revealed that his decision to retire came after spending the summer relaxing with his family.
The 37 year-old proceeded to pay tribute to his family, as he said: ”
First and foremost, I would like to give a big thanks to my mum and dad, my sisters, and of course my wife and 2 kids for all their support and help throughout my career.
“I would like to give a special mention to my dad, who has been the single biggest influence on my career and I am grateful for everything he has done for me.”
Downing proceeded to thank the six clubs of whom he has played for plus their “fantastic fans and staff” alongside managers under who he has played for, including Steve McClaren, Kenny Dalglish and Tony Mowbray amongst others.
Reflecting on his experiences across all six clubs which included League Cup titles with Middlesbrough and Liverpool in 2004 and 2011 respectively, Downing added that he “could have only dreamed of playing for the teams” that he had played for across his career alongside top players.
Downing also acknowledged the various opposition that he has faced over the years including Kevin Nolan and Didier Drogba amongst others, describing them as “unbelievable players” to have played against in oppositional teams.
Downing also earned 35 international caps for England between 2005 – 2014 and was proud of representing the Three Lions, adding: “I look back on the 35 times that I played for England with immense pride and I made some incredible memories that will last a life time. I feel very lucky and fortunate to have had the career I had.”
Looking ahead to the future, Downing revealed that he is “excited” to see what lies ahead with the former midfielder open to media, coaching or management roles. having “learned a lot from the game over the years and gained a lot of experience that hopefully I can pass on to others.”