The 26-year-old reveals he thought his international chances were gone after breaking his foot two years ago and is delighted to have forced his way back into national squad
Downing made his debut for the national side back in 2005 but inconsistency meant he failed to hold down a regular place in the squad, and the 26-year-old's task became even harder when he sustained a broken foot two years ago.
But the winger has forced his way back into the reckoning this season with arguably the best campaign of his career to date for Villa, becoming a fixture in Fabio Capello's recent England squads.
Downing's good form may yet be rewarded with a starting berth in Saturday's important Euro 2012 qualifier with Switzerland, but the player himself is just happy to be in the manager's thoughts again after his injury problems.
"When I was injured for a long time and missed a lot of football and England games, other people came in and took their chance," he told reporters.
"Credit to them. For me, personally, it wasn't good. I came back, got into a squad after my injury which was a boost, and then wasn't picked again for a long time. I thought maybe my time had gone with England.
"The only thing I could do was play well enough to get back in and that's been proven.
"I'm not sure if I'm going to start at the weekend [against Switzerland] but I certainly enjoyed my last performance against Ghana. There are certainly places up for grabs.
"There's obviously great competition among the players who are up against me but you've got to grab your chance when you get it, because someone else will come in and take your place.
"If I play on Saturday then brilliant and I'll have to be ready to play well and take my chance again.
"Every time you turn up for England you're constantly proving yourself so you've got to be on your toes."
Downing also admitted team-mate Darren Bent had been disappointed at his lack of chances at international level.
He said: "I think Benty was a little frustrated as he was scoring goals and not getting a chance.
"He was probably like me and thinking his chance had gone.
"But you never give up and always keep trying. I am back in the squad and Benty is in the team and scoring goals. You never know what is round the corner."
Downing also took the opportunity to warn his team-mates about the danger of complacency ahead of the Switzerland match.
"People will expect us to batter Switzerland as we beat them 3-1 away," he added. "Football is not like that and sometimes you go away and it is easier than being at home.
"I am not sure how they will come and play. We have got to keep playing the way we have been, passing and moving the ball.
"The manager come in and said 'no messing about, we are here to win the game' and that we can afford no slip-ups."
He added: "We were disappointed at the World Cup last year but the players have responded very well.
"We were under a lot of pressure and as a whole, the players have done really well."