Tony Mowbray believes performances and player availability will dictate how much Stewart Downing is involved this season.

Downing returned to the club earlier this month having featured in 41 Championship matches in his debut year at Ewood Park. Rovers have since strengthened their squad, but Mowbray feels the 36-year-old can still have a role to play, in a variety of positions.

Indeed, the manager said that had a deal for the former England international arrived sooner then he could have been utilised at left back, as he was last season, with both Barry Douglas and Amari’i Bell ruled out.

The international break will give Downing a chance to get up to speed with his fitness, having not played, or trained, with a club prior to his return, since July.

And asked on his likely involvement this season, Mowbray said: “I think the performance level of the team will dictate that.

“Other times injuries and this virus might dictate that we play him in various positions. If we had signed him a bit earlier he might have been playing at left back.”

The former England international joined Rovers on a one-year deal in 2019 and finished third in the club’s player of the season vote.

A one-year extension had been agreed in principal prior to the coronavirus pandemic, and with Rovers needing to strengthening their goalkeeping and defensive departments, Downing’s deal was placed on the backburner.

Six weeks into the new season it was rubber-stamped however, with Downing always desperate to return to Rovers and extend his playing career, having considered hanging up his boots should the opportunity not arise.

He played more than most people had thought when first signing for the club, and prior to the final game of last season at Luton Town, had been involved in every matchday squad.

Downing proved his fitness and quality across the season, with his versatility and quality on the ball impressing manager and fans alike.

And that’s why Mowbray was so keen to bring him back to the club when the opportunities presented itself.

Though the manager accepts Downing may have a lesser role to play but believes he will still be a key figure in the squad.

He added: “If we’re playing a high intensity, on the front, pressing game and scoring four and five goals every week he might have to sit on the sidelines and come on and help see games out for us.

“He can play anywhere with his left foot and precision passing, you just have to be mindful of the opposition’s strengths, but he can fit in anywhere.

“Depending on the opposition, sometimes we’re playing on the front foot and with real high intensity, but in recent weeks we haven’t had that balance in midfield.

“Stewart might come into that, and teams that we play where we think we’ll have lots and lots of the ball and it’s not so much about winning the ball back then he can play in those games and keep the ball moving for us, switch the play and point of attack for us with his precision passing.

“I’m sure he’s got a big part to play, we’ll see how the season unfolds, how the confidence of the team is.”

Downing was an unused substitute for the Under-23s in their defeat at Arsenal before the international break, but could be given a chance to step-up his fitness in a behind closed doors game early next week.

Bradley Dack, who continues his return to full fitness, will feature as could other first-team players short of match minutes.