Sturridge Will Always Answer Hodgson's Call

The tongue helped balance the whole routine... - Alex Livesey

Brendan Rodgers has expressed disappointment that Daniel Sturridge returned from England duty unfit to start Liverpool's biggest match of the season thus far. However, the striker has respectfully defended his decision to play for his country.

Anyone who's ever tried to keep two bosses happy will know the perils which that way lie. An earnest nod at one is followed by a frantic effort to placate the other; a knowingly bare-faced untruth told to one will often be followed by an even more egregious mendacity passed off in the company of the other. There are numerous wise old sayings about the difficulties of serving two masters and this is primarily because those wise old sayers, who coined the axioms in question, learned the veracity of their words from bitter experience.

For Daniel Sturridge, the complexity of the scenario is exacerbated by the fact that it is inextricably bound to the thorny issue of loyalty as it pertains to club versus country. Of late, Sturridge has found himself first choice in the attacks of both Liverpool and England. For a player who spent too many years struggling to make a consistent impression amongst the array of stars at both Manchester City and Chelsea, this last calendar year has been overdue confirmation of his potential. His remarkable haul of twenty two goals in thirty appearances, since his January transfer, has cemented him as a starter for both Brendan Rodgers and Roy Hodgson.

As far as most footballers are concerned, the opportunity to represent one's country is the very apex of professional attainment, so when tactical throwback par excellence, Hodgson, selected Sturridge, it was no surprise to read of the twenty four year old's pride and passion at wearing the three lions. The Liverpool striker's captain for club and country, Steven Gerrard, is the perfect example of a man whose passion in red can never be questioned and yet even that undoubted devotion is superseded by his sheer delight at turning out for England. Hodgson has made merry as a result, allowing his captain to play in a prestige friendly ahead of Liverpool's biggest league match to date.

Sturridge departed that same friendly injured and, as a result, failed to train to his full potential upon returning to Melwood. This went over not at all well with Brendan Rodgers, who has a strict policy about selecting players based on the intensity and quality of their training. As a result, Sturridge did not start against Everton at the weekend and despite a late goal-scoring and point-salvaging cameo, the manager was unusually critical of his forward's preparation, implying that there was an element of carelessness and an improper focus on priorities.

The player himself sees things in an uncomplicated way and, whilst not openly defiant, he is clear in his insistence that the chance to represent England is one he will always take.

"For me, regardless of what condition you are in, if you are selected by the manager of England you go out there and do the best you can, regardless of whether you are injured or not," Sturridge opined. "The manager gave me that opportunity and it was a pleasure to put the England shirt on. Fit or not fit, you go out and do your best."

By his own admission, then, Sturridge has been struggling with injury in recent matches but his devotion to his country is such that like Gerrard, he will risk all in that white shirt, even if the price is his first team shirt at Liverpool and the resultant impairment of his club's chances to take advantage of the slip-ups of their rivals. Jamie Carragher, that most famous of club loyalists, must wince at that concept. Sturridge, however, remains eminently practical and admirably humble in relation to his current predicament.

"I have been hampered the last three league games since West Brom, when I got the bang," he insists. "I've had blood underneath one of my muscles and it's still there now. When I shoot from long distance I still feel it, but it's getting better. I didn't get to train much when I was with England, I think I only trained once before the game, and I need to get the momentum going to try to get right. I need to make sure I am in condition to go out there and do myself justice. It would be great to be back in the (Liverpool) side. Fitness-willing and manager permitting, I can get back in the team and help us move up the table."

If Sturridge does help Liverpool to "move up the table" there won't be a single fan who will begrudge him his England devotion. The young man's words are calm, rational, humble and admirably restrained in the face of less than thinly veiled criticism from Brendan Rodgers. Quite frankly, Daniel Sturridge is doing a very good impression of what we all hope for in a Liverpool striker.

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