BIRMINGHAM ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 05: Stewart Downing of Aston Villa celebrates his teams goal after his cross was deflected by a Fulham player during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Fulham at Villa Park on February 5 2011 in Birmingham England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
With much of the news surrounding Aston Villa these days focused on Ashley Young's future (or lack thereof) with the club, a bit of good news was revealed today by Mat Kendrick of the Birmingham Mail; winger Stewart Downing, recently named the club's player of the year, has opened contract talks with the club that would extend his stay with the club through 2015. Downing has been rumored as a potential target of Liverpool, but with the Reds the current favorite to nab Ashley Young a move to Anfield seems like less than ideal destination for the England international, who will be 26 at the beginning of next season.
With the departure of Young during the summer transfer window looking ever more likely, this is excellent news for Villa. A club can easily survive the loss of one key player, assuming you even view Young as a key to the team's success going forward. The loss of two (and four in the space of three years) is quite a different matter, and could signal the beginnings of something of a mass exodus from the club. As it stands, Downing, Darren Bent, Marc Albrighton and Gabriel Agbonlahor look to be going nowhere in the summer, giving the club plenty of attacking talent around which to build. Downing's willingness to stay also serves as another example of an in-demand younger talent opting to stick with the club rather than go elsewhere, in spite of the rumors of a mutiny against Gerard Houllier and Gary McAllister in the ranks.
Who will be managing this club next season and what form the squad will take in the field is still very much up in the air, but no matter what the circumstances it seems fair to say that Stewart Downing and Marc Albrighton will flank Darren Bent in the Villa attack for the foreseeable future. In a year that's been difficult to say the very least, it's good to focus on the positives from time to time.