When Stewart Downing completed his move to Blackburn Rovers during the summer transfer window, there were inevitably a few eyebrows raised.
The midfielder, who had left Middlesbrough at the end of the previous season following the expiry of his contract at the Riverside Stadium, signed a one-year deal at Ewood Park in June, committing his future to the club until the end of the current campaign.
At 35-years-old, there may have been some wondering just how capable of making an impact Downing would be, or indeed, how much football he would get to play.
One possible suggestion for the thinking behind the deal, was that it gave Rovers the option of another experienced winger in their squad, following 34-year-old Craig Conway’s exit from Ewood Park at the end of the previous campaign.
It seems however, as though Downing will have had a much bigger part to play than expected at Blackburn throughout the course of this season.
Even though we are only a third of the way through the season, the midfielder has already started 14 league games for Rovers, in comparison to the nine that Conway would start across the entirety of the 2018/19 campaign.
It is worth noting as well, that Downing’s place in the side has been fully justified.
Throughout this early part of the season, the former England international has quickly established himself as a key figure for Rovers, with a string of tireless performances, which have not only shown that he is still good enough to compete at this level, but also that he is still fit enough.
Has Stewart Downing been Blackburn's best player so far this season?
So far this season, Downing has come through the full 90 minutes in seven of the 14 times he has started in the league, and given what he has been producing during his time on the pitch, Blackburn will surely be glad of that.
Having shown his versatility while filling in a variety of positions across the park, Downing’s unerring passing ability has been just as big an asset for Rovers, with the veteran able to dictate play from deep when played in a deeper holding midfield role, while causing problems for opposition defences when playing the ball into the area at times when he is further forward.
Indeed, Downing’s delivery from set-pieces this season has already seen him register three assists in the league this season, with the midfielder also getting off the mark with his first goal for Rovers in an all-important Carabao Cup win over Oldham Athletic that earned them a momentum-building first win of the season back in August.
But despite Downing’s contribution, things have not been entirely positive for Rovers of late, with a run of just five points from their last eight games seeing the Lancashire side drop to 18th in the Championship standings, five points clear of the relegation zone to increase the pressure on manager Tony Mowbray.
It seems therefore that Blackburn need something big quickly if they are to put themselves back in the hunt for a top-six that some of those around the club were talking about in the build-up to this season.
Downing has already shown this season that he is someone who is capable of making a contribution to such a step forward, and if he can do that again, then you imagine Blackburn will be more than keen to extend the veteran’s contract beyond the end of the current campaign.