Sturridge Negativity Seems Unjust And Unhelpful

Daniel Sturridge isn't universally liked, but after watching him score his 14th league goal of the season, Daniel Storey believes that we need to grow up a little...

Last Updated: 03/02/14 at 09:26 Post Comment

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Footballers aren't seen as an altogether likeable breed, but Daniel Sturridge seems to get more flak than most, despite a relative lack of off-the-field controversies. He possesses skill, pace and finishing ability (all attributes for which the funeral bell has been largely tolled for our national team), and yet Sturridge is still often regarded negatively. Branded as cocky and arrogant, there are still many that doubt his ability.

In favour of Sturridge's prosecution, when a youngster at Manchester City there were reported £60,000-per-week wage demands when still aged just 20 (although this was perhaps simply a naïve young player led by agent), and when City refused to meet such desires, the forward moved to a club that had no qualms in doing so: Chelsea.

'At times Sturridge can appear lazy, arrogant even,' the Daily Mail wrote after his move to Stamford Bridge. 'He cut the classic figure of a teenager who believed his own hype.' A headline in the same paper read 'Sturridge must channel his petulance and selfishness', but this one was composed after his Man Of The Match performance against Everton on Tuesday because he had shown displeasure at being substituted. I thought the party line cliché on that was "a player should never look happy at coming off"?

There's also that body-popping dance, enough to make any reasonable casual observer automatically assume that we are in the presence of dickery. Well, we might be. Sturridge would not be the first footballer to display the hallmarks of douchebaggery, and he will certainly not be the last - our national team is a veritable breeding ground for such individuals. And it is just a dance.

Moreover, the negativity attributed to arrogance is a fairly English concept. Sturridge exudes confidence in his own ability, and plays with an expressive air, but aren't these characteristics that we crave in our often-identikit England players? Instead, we only permit players to demonstrate such cockiness once they have reached the very zenith of the game, as in the cases of Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. That seems pretty illogical.

What cannot now be in doubt is Sturridge's ability or form. His finish from close range against West Brom was his 50th in the Premier League, one of the few highlights of a dreary early afternoon kick-off, found by a left-footed pass from Luis Suarez so cheeky that it verged on filth. After the evident vocal disagreement between Liverpool's strike partnership during the midweek Merseyside derby, Brendan Rodgers will have been pleased at further evidence that he is in possession of the Premier League's most impressive forward line.

In both of those games, we have seen the very best that Sturridge has to offer. Three goals against Everton and West Brom took the England man to six in as many matches, and 15 for the season. That's hugely impressive when you consider that an ankle injury has restricted him to 14 Premier League starts. They also took Sturridge to 28 goals in 35 matches since his arrival at Anfield, a £12m gamble far beyond justified. In such a time period, only Sergio Aguero and Suarez have been as prolific in England.

It is impossible to overstate Sturridge's importance on Liverpool's current style. With Suarez as the obvious focal point in attack, he is expected to drift wide in order to provide a creative element from the wing, interchanging positions with Philippe Coutinho to trouble a full-back with pace in addition to the Brazilian's guile. His goal return shows that the poacher's instinct remains, portrayed perfectly by his movement against West Brom to score the opening goal. Sturridge's 14 league goals have come from just 49 shots (a better conversion rate than Suarez), clear evidence against his reputation for selfishness.

Thirteen months ago, Sturridge's was a career in serious danger of becoming sluggish. He had started one Premier League game all season, and had just one appearance for England. This is now not just the highest English goalscorer in the Premier League, but perhaps also England's brightest World Cup hope. The forward may still not be universally liked, but it is difficult to not to at least respect and appreciate Sturridge's marked and notable rise.

Daniel Storey - follow him on Twitter

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