Downing: England duty became 'a chore'

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Stewart Downing has revealed how playing for England at Wembley became "a bit of a chore" when the national team were struggling and players were being targeted for criticism.

The Middlesbrough winger, 24, played in eight of England's matches in their failed campaign to qualify for Euro 2008. England's stars were often given a hard time by their own supporters, and Downing admits the uneasy Wembley atmosphere made it a troubling time for the players.

"It was a bit of a chore," he told the Daily Mirror. "People were thinking, 'What is the point in me going down there and playing for England, I am only going to get booed'."

He added: "But you think, 'Why let those people stop you doing what you want? And that is play for England'. They can boo all they want but if I get picked for England I must be doing something right."

Downing did not play in the defeat to Croatia at Wembley last year which ended England's qualifying hopes, and he was an unused substitute when new boss Fabio Capello saw his players exact revenge with a 4-1 victory in Zagreb in September.

But he has noticed a major difference in how the fans have responded to the team recently, with England on course to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.

Downing said: "It is better now, and the fans are starting to be with us. Especially after Croatia.

"The message to any fan who boos is: 'What are you doing? It is not helping your team one bit'. It is not like we are trying to play badly. Get behind us."

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