By Paul Brown
Gerard Houllier insists Stewart Downing has made giant strides this season - and has challenged the wing wonder to play his way into England's Euro 2012 squad.
Houllier has been thrilled with the form of Downing this term and thinks his consistency has been admirable.
The Villa boss now wants to see Downing excel for not only Villa but also England on a regular basis.
He says his aim is for Downing to cement his place in Fabio Capello's plans as the Three Lions look to progress to the next major tournament.
He said: "I think Stewart has stepped up.
"I think he's made one step. But there are several steps. He seems to have become a more regular international and is in the squad all the time.
"My aim is to see him playing two games out of three for England very soon and to take part in the European Championships.
"The team has been fantastic but we've been a bit unlucky at times. But Stewart has been consistent and regularly played well."
Houllier insists one of his key aims as manager of Villa is seeing gradual improvement in his players.
He views individual progression as vitally important, along with team advancement.
He added: "If you work well and are very focused on a regular basis, then the training we do is designed to make players progress and improve.
"Wherever I went I can give you names of players who have dramatically improved.
"I think some of the players here are very professional - they take on board a few tips that you give them and things go their way.
"It's true that I like offensive players to feel free and to be brave enough to miss sometimes because if they miss and keep trying it will prove that they have got the quality and the character to get it right."
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