Stewart Downing explains why he had to leave his own brother-in-law, Jonathan Woodgate, out of his FourFourTwo Perfect XI

Stewart Downing Jonathan Woodgate
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When selecting his centre-back pairing for his FourFourTwo Perfect XI, Stewart Downing had the unenviable task of selecting between Rio Ferdinand, John Terry and Jonathan Woodgate, who just so happens to be his brother-in-law.

Woodgate is married Downing's sister, Natalie, and has two children with her. Stewart and Woodgate played together at Middlesbrough during the 2007/08 season, too, meaning the winger could have picked his brother-in-law for his FourFourTwo Perfect XI.

However, as he explains, he had to select the centre-back partnership that was the fulcrum of the England Golden Generation. Unfortunately for Woodgate, quality beats family in this instance.

“I was stuck on three options: Rio, Jonathan Woodgate – my brother-in-law! – and John Terry," Downing explains. 

"I only played one season with Woody, so I’ve gone for Rio, one of the world’s best defenders in his prime. He was brilliant when I got into the England squad, always talking and demanding goals and assists.”

Downing continues describing the rest of the team, explaining that he signed for Aston Villa injured because centre-midfielder Stiliyan Petrov tackled him. 

Middlesbrough had been relegated to the Championship for the 2009/10 season, meaning Downing joined Villa in the summer for £12 million. 

However, a few months beforehand at the end of the 2008/09 season, with Downing still at Middlesbrough, he had to leave the pitch in the 25th minute due to a hard challenge from Aston Villa's captain.

“I signed for Aston Villa injured because Petrov tackled me! I was on the phone to him a few times that summer and told him that I was joining. He was like, ‘But how? You’re injured!’ 

"I got on really well with him; he was a terrific captain. Whenever I watched him from afar, I thought he was decent, but when I played alongside him I realised he was even better – clever, and with very good passing.”

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Ryan Dabbs
Staff writer

Ryan is a staff writer for FourFourTwo, joining the team full-time in October 2022. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before eventually earning himself a position with FourFourTwo permanently. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer while a Trainee News Writer at Future.