The 37-year-old, who also represented England at an international level, enjoyed two spells at the Riverside Stadium and managed to get to a UEFA Cup final during his first, then going on to ply his trade for Aston Villa when Boro were relegated.
He rejoined the Teesside outfit in 2015, helping the club to secure a return to the Premier League but leaving four years after his arrival as he was released at the end of the 2018/19 campaign.
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Joining Blackburn Rovers after that, he left Ewood Park last year and retired, going into coaching since via Boro’s academy where he is overseeing some of the second-tier side’s youth teams.
Although he is still in the early stages of his coaching career, Downing already has his sights set on a big role with the 37-year-old determined to make it as a manager, a long-term goal he has in his mind despite being open-minded about his future.
And the ex-England international has one particular job in mind as he seeks a return to the Riverside one day.
He wrote: “Ultimately, I want to get a chance to complete a set that would mean an awful lot to me. I’ve been a ball boy at Middlesbrough, played in the youth team, played for the first team, and captained the first team.
“The only thing that’s left for me to do is manage my boyhood club. If that’s going to happen at some point, I don’t know, but it’s the main ambition for this next stage of my career.
“I’ll keep working hard to try and make sure I get that opportunity.”
Considering the work Chris Wilder is doing, he may have to be patient before getting the opportunity to manage his former side, so his short-term focus should be on climbing the ladder first and the 37-year-old already seems to acknowledge that.
And looking at where Boro are, with the potential to get into the top tier in the coming years, he may have to start off as a head coach somewhere else in the footballing pyramid as opposed to being promoted to the first team at the Riverside and then into the managerial position.
Steve Morison’s success with Cardiff City will provide Downing with plenty of optimism – but the latter has plenty of time to make his mark in the management world and with such a glittering playing CV – he is likely to get opportunities.
Making the most of those opportunities and learning from others will be key to his success – and it will be interesting to see how long it will take him to reach the top job at the Riverside if he does earn the privilege of managing his club.
It doesn’t seem as though he’s ready for a job of this magnitude just yet – but he probably wouldn’t mind working with the Teesside outfit’s first-team squad now considering the quality of their players.