Stewart Downing is facing a career crossroads moment five years on from leaving West Ham United having been sold by Slaven Bilic, with the winger now a free agent waiting for the phone to ring.
Downing enjoyed two seasons with the Hammers between 2013 and 2015, in which he struck seven goals and provided 11 assists over 79 appearances in all competitions.
His start to life at the Boleyn Ground was far from perfect with the winger not striking home a maiden goal until the penultimate game of the Premier League season, when Downing beat Tottenham Hotspur’s Hugo Lloris to secure a 2-0 victory in the London derby.
The 36-year-old continued to only score vital efforts the following season with strikes in wins over Crystal Palace, Leicester City and Hull, and in draws with Stoke and Sunderland, only for that record to stop in the penultimate match when his opener could not prevent a 2-1 loss to Everton.
That proved to be his final appearance at the Boleyn Ground as Downing stepped down a division in the summer of 2015 to re-join his hometown side Middlesbrough in a £7million deal, and sign for a team then-manager Aitor Karanka believed he was completely committed to.
Blackburn Rovers came to his rescue and Downing made 43 appearances in all competitions, but he failed to do enough to warrant being kept on and was allowed to leave this summer.
The Ewood Park outfit had approached Downing over returning for a second season on reduced terms only to retract their offer as boss Tony Mowbray prioritised investing in other areas of the side, though not ruling out holding future talks.
Downing has remained unattached since his Blackburn farewells but could yet re-join Rovers with Mowbray leaving a spot in his squad open, while admitting the winger is keen to sign another deal.
“As far as I know Stewart’s an out-of-contract footballer and I think he can join anytime as long as you have a space in your squad,” Mowbray told Lancs Live.
“I spoke to Stewart and he knows all the financial stuff really, so let’s wait and see. We’ll see what the future brings.”
But waiting for the phone to ring and the offer of a new deal returning to the table has left Downing facing a crossroads in his career, as any contract could well be his last in professional football 18 years on from his senior debut.
Downing has certainly enjoyed a career most can only dream of with 35 caps for England, including games in the 2006 World Cup, and lifting two EFL Cups, firstly with his hometown side Middlesbrough in 2004 and later with Liverpool in 2012. While his eight assists and three goals for Rovers last term prove the 36-year-old still has something to offer the right side.