Sturridge’s Forgotten contribution
Last Tuesday night we were all treated to a glimpse of a player who was supposed to have been long gone by now. As PSG were expertly subdued at Anfield, Sturridge led our front line with real menace and hunger. It was the kind of performance we weren’t expecting to see from him ever again.
Injuries and progress had sadly left Daniel Sturridge struggling for a foot hold in the squad and many supporters shrugged in acceptance as he headed for the exit in the last transfer window.
If he had been allowed to depart, it would have been a sad, unsatisfactory conclusion for such a talented player. Ultimately Sturridge has given a lot to Liverpool despite the moaning done about him. He may yet have a significant part to play this season.
In January 2013, Liverpool Football Club was staring down the barrel of a third consecutive year of under achievement and horrible mediocrity. Many of us have tried hard to erase those recent memories of dismal, toothless displays when we were trying desperately to see the positives in Downing and Borini’s games. Shudder.
When Sturridge arrived at the midway point of that season, it was clear we’d signed an actual quality player; a real curiosity in those dark days. His instinct for goal and burst of pace were a real upgrade. Finally Luis Suarez had a pacey attacking partner to allow him even more room to unleash hell on Premier League defenders.
The goals came thick and fast for Studge in those first few months. Eleven in sixteen was a phenomenal return for a striker sighed for under £20 million. His quick feet and lovely skill were a massive hit with the Anfield faithful and for the first time since 08/09 there was genuinely cause for optimism.
It really is frustrating when people take for granted just how immense an impact Sturridge made in those first eighteen months at Anfield.
It was no coincidence at all that Liverpool went from also-ran to 2nd place and a Champions League return in that period with the Birmingham born forward in our ranks. Sturridge scored an astonishing thirty-five times in forty-nine outings in 18 months. The quality he displayed as he partnered Suarez in 13/14 was truly top class.
More than that though, Sturridge showed true grit and commitment to the club. Leading the line at the start of the 13/14 campaign with Suarez suspended, he chipped in with crucial goals and showed excellent skill as we started the season strongly. His performance in the 1-0 win over Manchester United was truly heroic. Limping and wincing for most of the game with a thigh problem, he was still able to get on the end of the one crucial chance to win us the match. It was a showing that truly undermines the tired argument that he doesn’t play through the pain barrier.
Suarez rightfully took a hell of lot of praise for that tittle challenge under Brendan Rodgers, but it would be massively unfair to dismiss Sturridge’s impact. His running and movement he showed that season, allowed the Uruguayan even move time and space as Liverpool played some of the best of the best football we’d seen in decades.
Insult to injury
It’s sadly impossible not to talk about his horrific injury record since those heady days of 2013/14. Yet another costly international break saw Sturridge sidelined at the start of 14/15 and things have been pretty dire for him ever since. A cruel variety of knocks, pulls and strains has seen the forward miss 81 games and almost 500 days of action for Liverpool.
What has perhaps made things a whole lot worse for Sturridge is the fact that for a significant chunk of his time at Liverpool, he was our one decent forward. After Suarez left, the onus fell on him to fill the void and the goals. His injury run was very costly indeed for the club, but for the player, he was seldom given adequate recovery time from his countless injuries.
Because he was so desperately needed to lead an otherwise toothless attack, he was often rushed back and thrown straight in to competitive action regardless of his fitness. He never really looked sharp or match fit in most of his outings, the fact that he averaged less than thirty games a season in each of the four season from 2014, is a sign of just how fragile and brittle his body had become.
Social media became rife with cruel jibes about his injury problems and some even accused him of a lack of commitment and malingering . Despite his many setbacks though, Sturridge seldom complained and always seemed desperately keen to return to action. Some players are just damn unlucky when it comes to injury, we’ve had plenty of them down the years, and it’s very easy to get frustrated, but some of the accusations and comments aimed at the striker were out of order and wide of the mark.
His quality and experience mean he could well go on to be a very important squad player this season. We will need players of his calibre and ability as the fixtures begin to pile up. Sturridge was excellent against PSG and showed the kind of hunger and drive which we all love to see. When he’s on the pitch, you have a potential match winner, a tenacious striker always looking to score; no bad thing at all.
The character and fight he showed in pre-season to stake a claim for his Liverpool future are also a wonderful sign of his determination. He could yet have big part to play in Jurgen’s masterplan and earn a more fitting ending to his career in Red.