STEWART DOWNING admits his failure to score a Premier League goal in his debut season for Liverpool is a source of embarrassment.
The 27-year-old, who cost £20million from Aston Villa last summer, also failed to provide an assist despite appearing in 36 league games for the Reds.
In contrast he was the only outfield player to make some sort of contribution to all nine England games during 2011, has played in two out of the Three Lions’ three matches this year and is in line to hold off the claims of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for the left-sided midfield berth in England’s Euro 2012 opener against France in Donetsk on Monday.
With Downing it seems the glass is either completely full or totally empty. Naturally, he does not view the situation in quite such simplistic terms and bristles with indignation at what the statistics appear to say about his contribution.
However, there is no getting away from that zero in the goals column. And it is one he does not like.
“The goal thing is,” he said, when asked directly if his failure was embarrassing.
“The fact is I didn’t get enough goals.
“I hit the post and the bar many times and missed a few chances so I was disappointed, especially when I scored goals for Aston Villa the year before.
“Sometimes you are on a run and get goals; sometimes you don’t.
“I try to score and maybe next season I will get 10 or 15.
“Football is like that.
“But I am disappointed I did not score enough.”
Downing would not feel so bad about the goals if that lack of assists was not thrown at him as well.
“Statistics have taken over the game: he doesn’t score this, he hasn’t set up that. You can read into it as you like,” he said.
“I’ve constantly set up chances, season in and season out. I can’t be criticised for not creating. I’ve just been unlucky that we’ve not finished the chances.”
Downing is adamant he will be stronger because of the stick he has taken during a turbulent first season at Liverpool which saw them win the Carling Cup but finish a lowly eighth in the Premier League. Their poor league form led to the sacking of Kenny Dalglish and last week’s appointment of Brendan Rodgers as his successor.
“Criticism makes you stronger,” said the winger. “You are always going to get criticised at a big club like Liverpool but it is a great club to play for.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my first season and I am sure we will be better next year.
“A lot has been said about Liverpool and the fact we didn’t perform but we battered teams at Anfield at times. I can think of one or two bad performances. Most of the time we were very unlucky.
“We just didn’t have that killer instinct. The manager said there wasn’t much you could say and that was probably right.
“But a lot of new players signed, we played in two cup finals and came away with a medal so there were a lot of positives to come out of it as well.”
Downing is one of six Liverpool players in Roy Hodgson’s 23-man squad with Jordan Henderson and Martin Kelly earning late call-ups to join up with skipper Steven Gerrard, Andy Carroll and Glen Johnson.
Critics have questioned why considering the Reds’ struggles they are so well represented at the Euros but Downing insists they are all there on merit.
“I don’t think those six players did that bad - just that, as a whole group, we were not clinical enough,” Downing said.
“It’s all about personal opinions. If there were eight Manchester United players in the team and they didn’t win the league, would people be asking why they are here?
“As players we have to be mentally strong and concentrate on the good bits of our games because the manager has seen something that shows why we’ve been picked.”
Hodgson has already conceded England cannot be viewed as favourites against a France team currently on a 21-match unbeaten run.
Yet Downing does not believe the Three Lions should be intimidated by such statistics.
“We don’t fear them,” he said.
“France are a good team but so are we.
“We know their strengths and weaknesses. They are good going forward and have some great individual players.
“It will be a tough game but it is a great opening match for us to play and we are confident we can get a result against them.”