England Start Beckons For Sturridge

Julian Finney

After what has been a mostly positive beginning to his Liverpool career, despite the inevitable grumbles, it appears that Daniel Sturridge is about to be handed his first international start for England by Roy Hodgson.

People love a moan. It's easier to whinge and whine than it is to remain constantly ebullient and positive. We Liverpool fans are often particularly adept at griping, despite our comparatively lofty position in the overall football world. It's human nature, it seems, to complain first and analyse later.

New signings are derided as not Liverpool class, academy kids are dismissed out-of-hand, as grumblers insist they will never make it and our inexperienced manager is derided for his rawness, verbosity and openness and cruelly depicted as some kind of footballing David Brent.

The kicker is, that there's probably an element of truth to all of those things when they're said. It's not so much that we're wrong when we express such harsh assessments. Rather, it's about the way we want to perceive the world around us.

Some of my closest Liverpool-loving friends have a world-view that makes A A Milne's Eeyore look positively eupeptic, and Fowler knows I've been prone to the odd bout of sepulchral cheerlessness myself, particularly during the bleak Roy Hodgson period -- it was a bit like Picasso's blue period, except without any artistic merit -- but perhaps we all need to be a touch more propitious in our outlook.

Let us take, for example, the less-than-curious case of Daniel Sturridge. Since his arrival in the January transfer window, the former Manchester City, Chelsea and Bolton striker has scored twelve goals in sixteen appearances, including ten in fourteen Premier League matches.

In no footballing milieu could those figures be considered anything other than impressive. They are the kind of statistics that earn international recognition, and indeed, England manager Hodgson -- yes, remarkably it's that same guy from earlier -- seems ready to do some notable recognising by handing Sturridge his first start for the senior side against my countrymen, the Republic of Ireland, on Wednesday night.

The Daily Mirror reported from the training camp that in a practice match, Sturridge was paired with hair-implant fetishist, Wayne Rooney. Apparently the interaction between the two men was good, with the Liverpool striker particularly impressive. After the session, the manager was seen to have an in-depth one-to-one with Sturridge, who ended the exchange beaming broadly. The assembled press have taken all of this to mean that he will lead the England attack against the Irish.

It's quite the honour for the twenty three year old, whose fifteen million pounds move to Liverpool was initially greeted by many, myself included, with a pronounced wariness. A reputation for self-regard and a patchy history at the top level were to the forefront of most minds as the deal was announced but a scoring debut against Mansfield Town in the FA Cup settled the anxieties, as did the undisputed ability and technique that Sturridge displayed from the start.

A goal against Manchester United in his second game and another in his third, in the 5-0 defeat of Norwich City, meant that the new boy had three goals in his first three starts and still, the complaints began to emerge. His commitment was dubious, said some -- he was going missing from games. He's too selfish, was the call from other quarters and yet Sturridge continued to score important goals against the likes of his two former clubs, City and Chelsea.

Since Luis Suarez took himself out of the first team reckoning by snacking on a raw Ivanovic, Sturridge has led the line impressively for the most part, showing signs of being the kind of player needed if Liverpool are going to be the flat-track bullies we all want them to be. Two goals in the 6-0 demolition of Newcastle United and his first hat-trick in another away win at Fulham was a fine return as the season wound down.

Yet I heard, and participated in, the grumbling about the striker around Anfield, when, in the derby-match sandwiched between those two wins, Liverpool could not breach their neighbours' defence. As the focal point of the attack, Sturridge got much of the blame and a less than stellar performance allowed the moaners in the back door, yet again.

One cannot shake the feeling that Daniel Sturridge has the potential to be a superstar. The quality and range of his passing, movement and goal-scoring has been mightily impressive and perhaps we would be sapient to focus on those undeniable truths and embrace the player as a Red, rather than joining the always-large mob, jostling to be the first to point out flaws and weaknesses.

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