Stewart Downing is "fantastic" says Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish

Liverpool boss Dalglish hails 'fantastic' Downing and predicts big things to come for winger

Kenny Dalglish has launched a staunch defence of Stewart Downing and has claimed the Liverpool winger has more quality than he anticipated.

Downing has failed to grab headlines since becoming the fourth most expensive player in Liverpool’s history following a 20million move from Aston Villa last July, as he has only scored once – against Oldham in the FA Cup – and not created any assists.

Eye on the ball: Stewart Downing in action for Liverpool against Stoke last weekend

Eye on the ball: Stewart Downing in action for Liverpool against Stoke last weekend

The England international was substituted for the sixth time in 24 appearances during last week’s 0-0 draw with Stoke, while there has also been an off-field distraction to contend with, following his arrest after a nightclub brawl in the north-east two weeks ago.

But Dalglish believes Downing, 27, only needs some good fortune to ignite his career on Merseyside and the Liverpool manager has admitted he may have contributed to his indifferent form by failing to give him a settled position in his side.

Dalglish: The Liverpool boss has defended Downing

Dalglish: The Liverpool boss has defended Downing

‘Stewart is a fantastic footballer,’ said Dalglish, whose side face Bolton tonight. ‘He made a big move to come here and – with all due respect to the other clubs he's been at – this is a massive club.

‘He is going to need time to get used to his new surroundings but our opinion on him hasn't changed. He is better player than I thought he was going to be. He is a better footballer and is quicker than I thought he was.’

Downing offers natural width on the
left but he has been deployed in a number of different roles and
Dalglish said: ‘I don't think it has been too comfortable for him as we
have played him in three or four positions. Maybe we need to look at
ourselves and say we have to be fair to him as well.’

That
may be true but it remains a worrying statistic that is awaiting his
first assist. Dalglish, though, has eased the burden on Downing and he
believes Liverpool’s strikers have a duty to help him out.

‘He's put more crosses in than anybody else according to the figures,’ said Dalglish. ‘He can only do what he is doing, which is to put some decent balls into the box.

‘It is another part of his job to put them in somewhere we are going to score goals and it is another job for the team to put them in the net. Stewart can only do what he is doing, which is to put some decent balls into the box. We've got to get on the end of them.’