By Paul Brown
Stewart Downing has been Villa's main man this season - and can be centre of attention for years to come.
That's the verdict of Gary McAllister, who believes Downing can be influential in the middle for Villa in the future.
Downing is McAllister's pick for player of the season, after a campaign littered with goals and assists for the wing wonder.
But the assistant boss sees Downing following the likes of Gareth Barry and James Milner into central midfield, albeit as a more attacking threat.
He said: "It's been a very mixed season but I've got to say Stewart's consistency has been superb, especially for a forward in a team that hasn't been playing as well as it can. He would be my pick for player of the season. I think being injury-free has been massive. I don't think he has missed a day's training. He came here on crutches.
"His versatility is a big thing too. It's becoming quite trendy. It's a little niche, left-footed players on the right and vice-versa. He's equally as good on the other side. It's a big advantage.
"We looked at him in the centre too. It's something we have spoken about a lot.
"We gave him a little run over at St Andrew's. He came in off the side there because he has got a fantastic shot that doesn't require much of a back lift, so if we can get him in this central areas and with a sight of goal, you could see us working that in pre-season.
"He has two great feet. If he is shown on to his right, he is willing to go down that side. He can cross. His right foot is strong too.
"I would categorise Stewart a wee bit differently to Gareth and James. That's no disrespect to them but Stewart has a wee bit more in the attacking third.
"If you can get as many strings to your bow as you can, sometimes you need to change things and it's good to know you have players who can adapt."
McAllister has been thrilled to see Downing establish himself in the England squad.
Now he wants to see him earn a regular spot in the team.
He continued: "Another wee target is for Stewart to go again. He has always been in and around that England squad. Can he go and become a part of the team?
"He has enough in his locker to do that. I think he will gain a lot of confidence from this year. He will benefit from that. There's more to come from him."
McAllister also revealed Villa are looking at prolonging Downing's stay at the football club.
He added: "He has two years left on his contract and we are getting into that area where it's coming into our vision. It's in progress at the moment.
"We are starting to make contact with his agent."
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