There can’t be too many players in Middlesbrough’s history that can challenge the service that Stewart Downing has given to the club during his career.
Having graduated from the Smoggies’ youth academy in 2001, the attacking midfielder went on to play a key role in helping them win the 2004 League Cup before featuring in the UEFA Cup final two years later.
Following three more successful campaigns at the Riverside Stadium, Downing eventually moved on to Aston Villa before rejoining his boyhood club in 2015 after spells with Liverpool and West Ham United.
Now 34-years-old, it is safe to say that the former England international is edging towards retirement and therefore Boro will need to prepare for life without him over the coming years.
Whereas it may be tempting for boss Tony Pulis to look for a young, exciting prospect in the summer transfer window to replace Downing, it could be argued that he already has a player on his hands who can provide the solution to this particular issue.
After starting his career at non-league side Seaham Red Star, Lewis Wing caught the attention of the Smoggies after firing in 37 goals for Shildon in the 2016/17 season.
Signed initially on a one-year deal by Pulis, the midfielder was loaned out to Yeovil Town for the entirety of the 2017/18 campaign before being given an opportunity to prove himself in the Championship this year.
A versatile player who can operate both out wide and in central attacking positions, Wing has impressed this season, scoring five goals and providing five assists for his team-mates in 32 appearances for Boro.
However, despite clearly being an exciting young prospect, his development under Pulis has unfortunately been limited by a number of injury issues which have had a knock-on effect on the Smoggies’ fortunes in the second tier.
It could be argued that if the £900k-rated ace (via Transfermarkt) had been able to avoid these setbacks, Boro would have easily been able to secure a place in the play-offs. Instead, it is looking very likely that they will be playing Championship football once again in August having thrown away their hopes of finishing in the top six in recent weeks.
If this is indeed the case, it is paramount that in order to achieve success in the future, the club must commit to building a squad that will allow Wing to thrive at the Riverside Stadium.
Although it would be naive to suggest that the midfielder could emulate Downing’s contributions for the club, it is clear that he has the skill and talent needed to become a viable replacement for one of the club’s cult heroes.
Boro fans, how highly do you rate Wing? Join the discussion by commenting below…
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