It was wrong of Brendan Rodgers to let Stewart Downing play while he was ill.
Yes, fair enough, he said he was fit and ready to play before the Premier League clash against West Ham United but Rodgers should have known better and not risked him for the important match, where he had to be taken off after the half an hour mark.
Downing has performed admirably through recent weeks, turning his performances around after he was told he was free to leave Liverpool in the last transfer window, if he could go out and find himself a new club.
Fortunately for Liverpool, Downing didn’t leave and he’s now created a sort of internal pressure over himself, which he will have to deal with each and every time he picks up a bug or a slight injury.
The problem is because of that context and the fact Downing was told he could leave, he probably feels as though he may risk his place in the side and at the club, if he doesn’t play with small little problems.
In a way, he’s a victim of his own ambition and his own recent success at Liverpool but Rodgers is a good enough manager to know when to step in and intervene and in this case he got it wrong.
The risk with this sort of thing is that a club could make the player’s problem worse by throwing him into a game, when he’s not entirely fit to play in that particular match.
In this case Downing could have made himself sicker than he already was or he could have picked up some sort of cardiovascular problem because of the strain put across his system, from playing while ill.
It’s not just Liverpool, there have been plenty of examples of this sort of thing throughout the recent history of the game with players going into games only a couple of days from being bedridden with flu.
The club needs to be careful that the wrong message isn’t sent out to younger players coming up through the ranks, who could look at this and think ‘I’d better keep this little problem quiet or I might not get a chance to play’.
Downing himself deserves some of the flack because he clearly knew he probably wasn’t fit enough to play in the first place, yet he took that decision on himself and it could have cost Liverpool big time.
He effectively took up a pointless place in the side, which led to Rodgers having to waste a substitution early on in the game, which is something that could easily have been avoided.
Liverpool knew he was ill in the build up to the game and that’s something which should have led Rodgers to making that big decision to leave Downing out. Next time, they may not be so lucky with the end result of Downing walking away without a more serious problem.
Can you think of anyone who has played well while ill?
image: © dannymol