Manager on Monday

Sam Allardyce has pushed Stewart Downing's England credentials after the West Ham United midfielder played a pivotal role in the stirring two-goal comeback at Stoke City on Saturday.

The Hammers were two down when Downing's burst of pace and undefendable cross set up Enner Valencia to head home, before Valencia returned the favour by teeing up the No11 to drill a right-footed equaliser past Asmir Begovic. The impact Downing had on the game is reflective of his season so far, and much of the post-match questioning of his manager centred on whether the former Liverpool winger's name will be in included in Roy Hodgson's England squad when it is announced on Thursday.

"If England need a central midfield player either in a three or in the hole, it's well worth looking at him," Allardyce said. "We told him he should have a go in the new role and try to express himself a bit more. "You've got all the experience with England and in the Premier League, can we move you inside and get more ball to you, will you be a better danger?' And up to now the answer has been yes.

"Anything that Stewart has played in central midfield has been exceptional and it turned the game on the Saturday in our favour by putting him in the middle.

"It doesn't matter whether people mark him or don't mark him, he can go either way. He can twist or turn and get his way out of trouble and start running at people's back fours, which is better than running at full-backs.

"The first goal was coming out of the centre and going to the right, running down and crossing with his right foot for Valencia. Then being in the middle for the ball to drop and finishing it for the second shows his reading of the game is exceptional.

While Downing's role will rightly get much of the attention, there were other notable performances across the Hammers' XI. Goalkeeper Adrian pulled off several outstanding saves, while James Collins had another eye-catching outing, throwing himself in front of shots and keeping Stoke's threatening forwards under control.

"Well James has played so well before this game. He stepped in for James Tomkins when he got injured before the Burnley match, took his place and played his third outstanding game on Saturday.

"The amount of blocks and headers was terrific. He wasn't happy as he thought he should be protected more by his players but he was there when we needed him.

"Their frontline was lively and all three have not only got great energy and ability but they're strong physically, which challenged us. After all that we come through and showed a bit of our quality and the biggest thing for me is that's the fewest chances we've created in a game and we've scored two even though we've not got our leading goalscorer [Diafra Sakho] on the pitch."

The point helped maintain West Ham's lofty position in the Barclays Premier League table and with a home game against Aston Villa on Saturday up next, the chances of going into the international break in the top six remain high. Big Sam revealed Diafra Sakho should be back to lead the line in the 3pm kick off, but has warned he will be expecting a better performance from his team.

"We've got Villa at home on Saturday and the point at Stoke kept us on a very good run. Anybody who gets a point away from home is extremely satisfied in this league. To get a point after being two goals down is almost like a moral victory.

"We think Sakho will be back for the next game. We don't think the shoulder is going to be too long. There's no dislocation; it's a cartilage problem so it's bruised and the pain is still pretty tender but it's getting better every day and hopefully he'll be back for Aston Villa. If not, we have to cope with it and after that it's the international break.

"The good thing is the goals are getting shared about the team. The goals we scored against Stoke were not gifts, they had to be quality and both were top quality. Even when we've got that quality when we're not as good as the opposition, we've always got a goal threat. That changes games and it certainly changed the game against Stoke."