Daniel Sturridge insists he never doubted his ability to make his mark at international level and highlights his January move to Liverpool as the catalyst for his emergence as England’s in-form goalscorer.
Sturridge — in line to return to Roy Hodgson’s England side against Germany at Wembley Stadium in London today after missing last week’s 2-0 friendly defeat by Chile with a thigh injury — joined Liverpool in a ￡12 million (US$20 million) move from Chelsea 11 months ago after failing to progress from the fringes of the Stamford Bridge first team.
Long tipped as an England star in the making, the 24-year-old has since blossomed on Merseyside after being handed a regular starting spot, and a return of 23 goals in 33 appearances for club and country during this year tells its own story.
With the World Cup finals still seven months away, it already seems certain that, barring injury, Sturridge and Wayne Rooney will provide the focus of England’s attack in Brazil next year.
The forward, who comes from an extended soccer family and admits people still confuse him with his now retired uncle Dean, a former Derby County striker, is now delivering on the potential that persuaded Chelsea to lure the player from Manchester City in 2009 and justifying the self-belief he demonstrated when he first joined the London club.
That, Sturridge says, is down to him finally being given the opportunity to prove his quality, although he stressed he was “thankful” for his time with Chelsea.
“When you are a young player, sometimes you get misunderstood and that’s probably the perception I gave everyone,” Stuuridge told reporters at England’s hotel in Watford, north of London, on Sunday. “People were thinking: ‘He is saying this and he has not proved himself or not done anything to say what he’s said.’ In the past I have maybe not been given the opportunity to back up what I have said. I am now being given the opportunity,” Sturridge said. “If you have only 20 minutes, you can’t show what you can do.”
Having struck up a fine partnership with Luis Suarez at Liverpool, Sturridge has no doubts he can do the same with Rooney at international level.
“Definitely. Wazza [Rooney] is a world-class player and it is easy to play with him. I enjoy playing with him,” he said. “We complement each other’s game. In training, it is almost like we don’t need to work on things. We know where we are, where teammates are, look over your shoulder and see your teammates. You don’t need to work on these things.”
The meeting with Germany provides Hodgson’s team with a first opportunity to avenge the controversial 4-1 defeat in Bloemfontein, South Africa, in the 2010 World Cup that saw England denied an equalizer when Frank Lampard’s shot was adjudged not to have crossed the goal-line.
“I was on holiday and I did watch it,” Sturridge said. “I think that is the past now. Everybody will remember that, but we are moving on from that now, we have a World Cup coming up and we are looking forward to it.”