Tuesday 23 January 2018

Comment: Daniel Sturridge needs to confront the truth over his injury record

Liverpool striker today made a strong and unjustified attack on those who have questioned his commitment

Daniel Sturridge
Daniel Sturridge

Ian Herbert

Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge was certainly right when he said today that the idea he might have struggled to fight off injury because of his religious faith was offensive and baseless.

“I didn’t know religion had anything to do with football,” he said. “As a child I didn’t think about these things.”

The problem for Sturridge as an individual who has a faith and spiritual life, is the dullness and narrow mindedness of an outside world looking in. Football is the new religion and those who invest time and thought in what you might call the old one are submitted to dismal kind of prejudice.

It’s the reason for that legendary ‘We don’t do religion’ line which Alastair Campbell offered up when asked about Tony Blair’s own faith. When the very fact that Sturridge considers the words of the New Testament each morning is considered worthy of a headline – “I read the Bible every day,” proclaimed a breathless Mirror website headline a few months ago – you see what he is up against.

But that’s as far sympathy goes. Sturridge made a very strong and very unjustified attack today on those who have questioned his commitment to the Liverpool cause.

“To say a player doesn’t want to play is the biggest disrespect you can lay to any footballer,” he said. No-one, in fact, has said he does not want to play the game but there is plenty of evidence that his managers have wondered whether he has it in him to overcome the muscular troubles which kept him out for so long.

It’s nothing in the way Jurgen Klopp or Brendan Rodgers have said about him down the months. More the look of weary resignation on their faces when his name crops up in conversation.

The outlook did not look promising 17 months ago when Sturridge actually suggested that his muscular problems might be hereditary. “Maybe it’s my body type. Maybe it’s hereditary,” he said. “Both my uncles had injuries and my dad had them as well.” It is when a player is willing to entertain such a thought that the reason to give the fight less than everything exists.

Those who know Sturridge best will tell you that he is one of those who always has to feel 100 per cent mentally and physically if he is to play, though a hard fact of life for any player is that cannot expect that kind of certainty.

It was Sam Allardyce who once said that almost every player is playing through some kind of minor knock or niggle when he gets beyond 26.

Steven Gerrard tells the story of how he was desperate to have Sturridge in the Liverpool team to face Manchester United at Anfield early in the 2013-14 season, when one of the striker’s usual thigh niggles had created a mental block.

It wasn’t a non-existent problem, but neither was it something the club’s medical staff thought should stop him playing that afternoon. “We’re sure he’ll be fine. We just think he needs an encouraging push,” Chris Morgan, Liverpool’s chief physio told Gerrard. The captain was deputed to persuade Sturridge of this fact by Morgan, whose own supplications had failed.

“I was more like a fan… trying to persuade Daniel,” Gerrard related later. “I said if it was not good after ten or 15 minutes he could come off. I said all the fans and everyone in the team would appreciate him giving it a go….”

 “All right,” Sturridge said, after their little walk together. He scored after four minutes, played the full 90 minutes and Liverpool won 1-0. The tragedy of Gerrard and Jamie Carragher’s departing Anfield is that there’s no-one to do the persuading now, but the story proves that however much Sturridge blames the sceptics he needs to reach himself for the truth. “

I don’t look at social media,” he said today, as if the whole injury business was some wild Twitter conspiracy.

(© Independent News Service)

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