Sunday 27 May 2018

Sturridge happy to make actions speak louder than his words

Liverpool ace relishing chance to prove worth

England's striker Daniel Sturridge
England's striker Daniel Sturridge

Henry Winter

Daniel Sturridge's journey to become England's first-choice No 9 has involved being chased by dogs as he dribbled around cones in his local park, reading the Bible and leaving Manchester City and then Chelsea before finding fulfilment as a centre-forward at Liverpool.

Sturridge starts in tandem with Wayne Rooney for England against Germany at Wembley tomorrow night. Injuries permitting, this will be Roy Hodgson's attacking partnership at the World Cup in Brazil next summer. Sturridge has come a long way from Cadbury Athletic juniors on Bournville Lane in Birmingham.

He hails from a well-known football family, including uncles Dean and Simon, while his father Michael played non-League and in Finland. A cousin, Chris Packer, turned out for Shrewsbury Town. He has a nephew at Aston Villa, a striker with their U-12s.

People still confuse Daniel with Dean, himself a prolific centre-forward in his day.

"Sometimes if I'm at the airport they call me Dean and I'll say 'wait a minute I'm Daniel','' laughed Sturridge before training at London Colney yesterday.

"If I get called Dean it's not a problem. I'm cool, I'm 'Dean' then. I'm proud of what my family has achieved. They paved the way for me and I looked up to them when I was younger. I was happy to see my uncle (Dean) play for Derby and my other uncle play for Stoke.

"It was great as a youngster. I watched my dad play on a Betamax recording at home when we lived in Birmingham and he showed me old games. He scored some good goals as well.

"The Betamax were from Finland when he played there. He also played for Birmingham (reserves) under Alf Ramsey and Jim Smith.

"My dad coached me a lot and took me on to the training field. He would take me out on the park, work right foot or left foot, put out cones, we had the Samba (portable) goals. We would go to the local park, dogs chasing us.

"He showed me a lot of Pele videos, Wiel Coerver as well. He would show me the skills and I would go in the front garden trying to do them. He showed me the videos of me playing football but looking back it was unbelievable. I had the Villa jumper, I would have been eight or nine.''

Sturridge moved from Villa's academy to Coventry City's before joining City. He never settled, never really won favour with the managers, and left for Chelsea in 2009, where he announced on his arrival that "I hope to be one of the greats''.

Still only 24, Sturridge has matured from that slightly cocksure figure.

"Maybe my press conference put me on the back foot in the way people perceived me. I have always been confident in my abilities, always had my faith in God, always expressed myself.

"The winning mentality has been with me since day one, whether that's playing table tennis or basketball.

"I have my faith in God and whatever you believe in that's for you to have and I would never discriminate.

"We are all friends. I pray a lot. I read the Bible.''

He flourished on loan at Bolton Wanderers. "I'm thankful to Owen Coyle. I send him the odd text to wish him the best in the Europa League (with Wigan Athletic). He helped me so much.''

Sturridge returned to Chelsea in May 2011 but became frustrated being used out wide.

Craving a chance through the middle, not out wide, he gratefully accepted Brendan Rodgers' offer to head to Liverpool last January. "In the past I have maybe not been given the opportunity to back up what I have said,'' Sturridge reflected.

"I am now being given the opportunity. I am delighted that I have the belief of the England manager, of my manager at Liverpool, and I'm thankful for my time at Chelsea, for what they have done for me and my life, and I'm thankful to Man City for what they have done for me in my life.

"I will never forget that. That for me was a defining moment in my career being at Chelsea, going through what has made me become a man in terms of my footballing career.

"Playing on the right wing at Chelsea helped my right foot. It made me have to use it a lot more and I have been working a lot on the training field over the last few seasons using my right foot.

"I'm still improving: everything from my left foot to my skills, to my speed. I make sure I am working on my speed in the gym with my strength.''

It is paying off with 21 goals in 29 games for Liverpool, vindicating Rodgers' judgment.

His chip from 25 yards over West Bromwich Albion's Boaz Myhill was one of the goals of Liverpool's free-scoring season.

"I just looked up and seen him and thought 'I'm going to for it'. It's just important to try things. I feel confident. Sometimes in the past you feel you don't want to try something because you may get shot down for it.

CHIP

"I learnt that one (the chip) from Deco at Chelsea. He used to do it a lot in training. I started to do that a little bit more in training and they started coming off for me.''

Rodgers describes Sturridge (and Luis Suarez) as a nine and a half, reflecting his ability to move easily between two roles, going long and short.

"It's important to mix it up,'' agreed Sturridge. "When I was younger I used to wear 10 but I liked playing as a nine so it was kind of weird.

"When I was younger, I liked to watch players who dropped deep and pick the ball up like Thierry Henry and (Cristiano) Ronaldo. It's something I naturally do.''

Sturridge is also learning from Suarez, who scored a hat-trick in that West Brom game. "Luis is a world-class player and it is great to be part of such a great team at Liverpool.''

He believes his England axis with Rooney can be as good as his partnership with Suarez.

"Definitely. 'Wazza' is a world-class player and it's easy to play with him. We complement each other. In training, it is almost we don't need to work on things. We know where we are without looking.''

England will need such understanding against Germany. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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