Describing Stewart Downing as ‘a freak’, Tony Mowbray meant it as a compliment, with the 35-year-old playing an ever-increasing role in the Rovers side.

Within the last three matches, where Rovers have claimed nine points, he has come off the bench to score, have a hand in two winning goals, and helped the back four to a first clean sheet in 11 matches.

Signed as a free agent in the summer, Downing has started 16 of Rovers’ Championship matches and impressed everyone at the club with his professionalism.

Mowbray knew just what he was getting in bringing the former England international to the club, and has used him as an example to others in terms of application and his quality on the ball.

And then there is his fitness levels, still bursting forward down the left flank in added time as Rovers held on for three points at Stoke City. 

“He loves football. That’s why at 35 he trains every day, I don’t think he’s missed a day yet,” Mowbray explained.

“He wants to go out there and kick a ball and be with the lads.

“I’ve had lots of old players in my career and if they could get away with training on a Friday and playing on a Saturday they would do it.

“Stewy Downing doesn’t want to miss a session. He’s a bit of a freak how he keeps going.

“He can play anywhere for us, we have to keep him fit and keep him going. But we have to look after him and make sure we don’t overload him.

“This period there will be games he sits out, as he did against Barnsley, but at this moment he’s doing really well.

“He’s amazing to have around the building just for young players to see how he doesn’t give the ball away, how composed he is and a good pro.”

Rovers have used four different players at left back since losing Greg Cunningham for the season with a knee injury, with Downing having played there for the last two matches

But Mowbray said: “I don’t sit here thinking about whether it’s long-term at left back, Derrick Williams and Amari’i Bell might have something to say about that.

“It was always an option when he came to my house in the summer with his father and sat in my house. I talked about left back, left and right midfield, central midfield and he was open to any of them.

“I think one of Stewy’s best games for us was against Nottingham Forest when he played in central midfield and had 106 touches and 93 of them he gave to a blue and white shirt.”

Left back is one of four different positions that Downing has featured in during the early months of his Rovers career since his summer move from Middlesbrough.

“I think the great thing about Stewart is his versatility and the fact he can play off the right, step inside on his left foot and switch the play or play in to the striker, or play off the left and whip in fantastic crosses in to that corridor of uncertainty,” Mowbray explained.

“Of course at 35 you have to hope he doesn’t play against a really sharp, fast winger who take him on. If you’re going to do that you need to have some protection in front of him so you have to get that balance of the wide left player.”