Downing nudges closer to Villa debut

Aston Villa winger Stewart Downing has taken another step on the road to fitness by having a pin removed from the right foot which he fractured at the end of last season.

The England player made a £12m switch from Middlesbrough to Villa Park during the close season even though it was evident he would not feature until the tail-end of 2009.

Downing recently targeted November as the month for his comeback and manager Martin O’Neill reports the player is in a buoyant mood.

O’Neill said: “Stewart has had the operation (to have the pin removed). The specialist is particularly pleased with him, which is great news.

“It is just a matter now of that wound healing and Stewart taking his time.

“I hear he is targeting November. Knowing Stewart, I am surprised he didn’t say tomorrow! I think our doctor would be a bit more careful.

“He is now going to have a couple of days off but he is very buoyant indeed.”

O’Neill is hoping Downing will be able to make a telling impact during the second half of the campaign, when he will also be staking his claims to be part of Fabio Capello’s World Cup squad.

He suffered the broken foot in a challenge with Villa midfielder Stiliyan Petrov on Middlesbrough duty at Villa Park in May.

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