STEWART DOWNING admits he is taking inspiration from former Aston Villa team-mate Ashley Young in trying to emulate his fellow winger and becoming an England regular.
Young has continued the form he demonstrated for Villa last season following his summer move to Manchester United and is now an established member of England manager Fabio Capello’s side.
Downing left the Midlands club to join Liverpool during the close season and is hoping his international apprenticeship is also about to come to full fruition after impressing for the Reds.
He said: “Ashley has done very well. He earned that move to United playing very well for Aston Villa and he scored two great goals at the weekend against Arsenal.
“I’ve seen that at Villa many times, in training and in games. It is no surprise he is doing well. I knew he would fit in very well. He is a top player, playing with a lot of confidence.
“But, not only is he playing well for his club, he’s done well of late in the England games.
“He’s got himself a couple of goals, he’s starting to make a big impact.
“There is competition for places. He has seen people competing with him for a place in the team and he’s grabbing it with both hands which we all have to do when given the chance.”
Downing added: “Ashley’s progress does act as an inspiration, and not only for me. We all have to be ready when called upon by Fabio.
“There are a lot of players playing with confidence and hopefully we can take that into an England shirt.
“I hope I can go from strength to strength with England. I’m enjoying my football at the minute. I’m playing with a lot of confidence and I am hoping to be involved a lot more.”
Downing believes Capello has a whole bunch of players currently at the top of their game at his disposal for tomorrow’s Euro 2012 qualifier with Bulgaria in Sofia.
He said: “There are a lot of players here from the top four or five clubs. I think the competition for places is quite strong.
“It’s probably a headache for the manager but I’m sure it’s one he would like.
“There are a lot of top players playing at the top of their game and it’s good for the team.
“It is good for England, good for the squad. It keeps people on their toes. They know if they don’t perform, someone could come in and replace them.”
Downing has noted the spectacular start to the season by the two Manchester clubs but is content with Liverpool’s progress to date.
He said: “The two Manchester clubs made quite a statement with good victories. For us, we are happy with how we’ve started.
“We’ve played some good football with a fairly new team, a lot of players playing together for the first couple of games. It is going well.”