Sky Bet Championship sides Aston Villa, Derby County and Fulham are set to battle it out for the signature of unwanted Middlesbrough winger Stewart Downing who has been informed he can leave the Teeside club on loan this January, according to reports.

News broke this morning that the 32-year-old experienced Middlesbrough winger would be allowed to leave the Premier League side on loan for the remainder of the campaign.

This has sparked a lot of interest in the midfielder for the Premier League, the US, China and also amongst some of the bigger clubs in the Sky Bet Championship.

The Birmingham Mail has announced that Sky Bet Championship outfit Aston Villa are apparently interested in bringing their former winger back to Villa Park but will face stiff competition from fellow division rivals Derby County and Fulham if they make a move for Downing.

The tricky winger has been pushed to the side of late at Middlesbrough as the Teeside club look to target their own transfers during the January transfer window to strengthen their bid of survival in England’s top flight. The announcement that Downing will be allowed to leave for the rest of the campaign has come as a bit of a shock as the former England international made a solid start to this season with the North-east side.

Downing offers real experience for all three sides vying for his transfer. Derby County are looking for depth in their squad out wide whilst Fulham could be looking to replace star man Tom Cairney should he leave this January.

The winger previously played at Villa Park after a £12million move from home-town club Middlesbrough in 2009 which could persuade him to move back to the Midlands for the remainder of this campaign.

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MA Sports Journalism student & Football Analyst for Opta. Bradford City fan.