"A Phenomenal Player"

His new trick of balancing the entire photo on two fingers was a hit with the crowd... - Clive Brunskill

Amidst all the justifiable furore about Luis Suarez, there can be a tendency to overlook the frankly stunning contribution that Daniel Sturridge has made to Liverpool's fine season to date. Club legends Steven Gerrard and Robbie Fowler recently acknowledged his efforts.

When Robbie Fowler tells you his thoughts on a forward, it behooves you to pay attention. The Toxteth man was the perhaps most natural striker this scrawler has ever seen. Dalglish, Rush and Barnes were greater footballers but Fowler was unique. After the fallow years of the early 90s, when the unispired likes of Paul Stewart and Dean Saunders struggled to lead the line, Fowler's emergence filled disillusioned fans with a gleeful delirium. Here was a proper footballer, a local boy and a spirit-shocking talent who simply scored at will -- goals of all sorts with both feet. His was an outrageous, instinctive gift that burned with a searing, white-hot intensity for too short a period in the red of his beloved Liverpool Football Club.

Reflecting on the current campaign, Fowler was struck by the impact of the man who has made himself  first choice for Roy Hodgson's England World Cup team (is it just me that still finds that last phrase to be a curious amalgam of the odious and the tragi-comic?). Almost a decade ago, the two men shared a training facility at Manchester City. Fowler was still sporadically showing flashes of his former brilliance but his mobility and dynamism had been seriously impaired by injury. At that point, a fifteen year old Sturridge was creating a tremendous impression with the sheer impish virtuosity of his ability and the older man recalls being mightily impressed.

"I was lucky enough to train with Daniel when I was at Manchester City," Fowler told the Liverpool Echo. "You could see even at the age of 15 that he had everything. He used to embarrass some of the older players in the squad with his skill. He was so confident. I always knew he would go on to become a special player. I see all the qualities an international striker needs.

"I have been really impressed by Daniel. There was a lot of pressure on him when he came to Liverpool. He has had a few blips along the way but thankfully he has found his place at Liverpool and is setting the world alight. He's a phenomenal player. Things hadn’t quite worked out for him at Man City and Chelsea and people were asking ‘can he do it at a big club?’ He has answered all those questions brilliantly."

Sturridge's goal return for Liverpool since signing is the stuff of emergent legend. In 39 appearances for the Redmen the striker has registered a remarkable 32 goals. This season alone, a chunk of which he missed with injury, he has notched 18 in 19 Premier League games and 21 in 23 overall. These are the kinds of numbers that managers dream of. What makes them even more significant is that so many of those goals have been crucial, point-earning strikes.

Yet there is so much more to Sturridge as a player. He has pace and the capacity to beat a man and these two qualities, in tandem, have caused carnage in opposition defences, but he is also capable of bringing incisive and pacy passing and link-up play to the attack. Yes, like all strikers, he will occasionally take the selfish option, but the mobile front man has contributed to many scores, assisting directly on five separate occasions. In Raheem Sterling, Luis Suarez and Sturridge, Liverpool have a pacy triumverate with an abundance of trickery and a ready eye for goal. They have the potential, in this scribbler's lowly opinion, to become one of the great attacks in the club's history should they remain as a unit. That's quite something when one considers the sublime forward combinations that have worn the Liverbird -- I may need to have a little lie down after I've finished this.

It speaks volumes for the impact that Sturridge has had on Liverpool's fortunes that Luis Suarez was barely missed at the beginning of the season as he served out his ban for an impromptu Ivanovic picnic. The dancing striker notched a series of solitary goals in 1-0 wins and cemented his central importance to whatever Liverpool were going to achieve in this campaign. The influence Sturridge has had on Liverpool's forward progress has not been missed by club captain, Steven Gerrard. The Huyton man is very adept at media interaction and more than capable of damning with faint praise, should the occasion require it. When it comes to his admiration for Daniel Sturridge, however, Gerrard is unambiguous.

"Daniel's got the world at his feet and he can be whatever he wants to be if he keeps working hard," Gerrard told thefa.com. "His form has been scintillating this season and, to see him close up in training, I see what qualities he's got. Everyone will be looking for Suarez, (Cristiano) Ronaldo, the usual suspects, to stand up and be the star of the tournament, but Daniel is certainly capable to go and star at this World Cup."

Fervent patriot that he is, Gerrard will still forgive a rabid red like your penman for not giving a fig about the fortunes of Hodgson's lot. What concerns the majority of us is the ten games that remain in Liverpool's promising Premier League campaign. If Sturridge continues to light up those games with the "scintillating" displays his captain speaks of, and if we are treated to another eight or ten performances of that entertainingly awful wriggly arm dance, then it is likely that sales of the number fifteen shirt will rocket in the close-season. Hopefully the prospective buyers will have the option of Champions League patches displayed proudly on the arms. If you find yourself making such a pleasant decision, it will be thanks in no small measure to Daniel Sturridge.

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