After playing alongside Cole in a recent behind-closed-doors practice match, Downing told Sky Sports: "He certainly looked good to me.
"I've played with Carlton for years at England, he's a strong boy. He certainly looked like he has been working hard, and I've seen that at the training ground.
"I think he just needs games, games like that to get him fit.
"I think we needed another option. Carlton can bring that.
"He can also play on the floor, as well as being good in the air, so it's a different option for the manager. We need competition."
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