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In focus: Paul Downing

27 June 2016 takes a look at defender Paul Downing, who is officially set to move to Stadium MK on a two-year deal...

Downing, nephew of ex-footballer and manager Keith, began his career with West Bromwich Albion and in the 2008/09 season he was named the Baggies’ Young Player of the Year. That campaign, as a 17-year-old, he also featured on the bench for the first-team in their Premier League clash with Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.

In January 2010, aged 18, he joined Hereford United on a short-term loan deal and made his debut in a 2-0 victory over Lincoln City. He made a total of six starts for the Bulls during his time in Herefordshire, before returning to the Hawthorns at the end of the season.

That summer, Downing was handed his first professional contract by West Brom and he would go on to become a regular in the heart of their reserve side’s defence the following season. The 6ft 1in centre-back made 16 starts in the Premier Reserve League, captaining the Baggies on five occasions – he also scored in a 4-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers.

Downing also spent time with Rotherham United and Shrewsbury Town during the 2010/11 campaign but was limited to just four appearances on the bench.

The following season, Downing remained a key member of West Brom’s Premier Reserve League side until he joined Barnet on loan in November 2011, where he became a regular at centre-back after making his debut in a 2-0 win over Bristol Rovers. He remained with the Bees for the remainder of the season and, in total, made 28 appearances while helping to keep five clean sheets.

Downing left West Brom at the end of the 2011/12 campaign but was snapped up by nearby outfit Walsall in August.

His debut for the Saddlers came in a 2-2 draw with Brentford at the Banks’s Stadium and, after several more appearances, he soon established himself a first-team regular – from 8th December he started every league fixture until the end of the season.

He made a total of 32 appearances in his first season with Walsall, helping them to a ninth-place finish, and also scored his first senior goal in a 3-1 win over Preston North End – a header past goalkeeper Thorsten Stuckmann.

In 2013/14, Downing remained a key part of the Saddlers’ side, missing just two league games the entire campaign. In total, he featured 49 times and also found the net in a 1-1 draw with Leyton Orient.

Downing took his appearance total for Walsall past the 100-mark the following season, featuring 45 times in a campaign the Banks’s Stadium outfit reached the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final at Wembley Stadium.

Last season he enjoyed his best year to date from a stats point of view, playing 56 games in all competitions and also finding the net on three occasions. He also played a pivotal role in helping Walsall finish in the League One play-off places.

Downing was offered a new contract at the end of the 2015/16 season but opted to join the Dons instead, where he will be hoping to establish himself as one of the division’s top defenders.

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