Reputations are a strange business. As a callow youth, I had one particularly irksome and ineffective pedagogue who, nonetheless, made a couple of observations that have stayed with me. One balmy September afternoon in the final year of our secondary education, said teacher confided that he made a specific point of being punctual and fierce in each of his first-year groups; thus establishing a notoriety for both things amongst the students at the start of their five year stint. After that, he averred, he could be as tardy and as easy-going as he wished because everybody expected him to be sharp and choleric.
I have been the first to admit that the reputation Daniel Sturridge had for being difficult and possessed of a surfeit of self-confidence, unduly troubled me ahead of his move to Liverpool Football Club. Of course, foolishly, I had accepted that received wisdom as fact, and I was not alone. Having invested large sums in the spectacularly underwhelming or crocked Joe Allen and Fabio Borini, Brendan Rodgers' buying prowess had taken quite a battering. £12m and change seemed a hell of a gamble, on a player who had not managed to display any consistency at Manchester City or Chelsea. Of course, that was an overly simplistic take on things and did the young man a disservice.
Under André Villas Boas, when trusted with a regular spot amongst the stars of the Chelsea firmament, Sturridge had excelled. Earlier, a half-season loan-spell at Bolton, where he became the axis of the Trotters' attack, saw him in sublime and consistent form for Owen Coyle. These, it emerges, were the correct periods from which to assess the potential of the young striker. He patently thrives when trust is placed in him and he is asked to be the focal point of a team's offensive plan. Simply put, Daniel Sturridge responds well to having confidence placed in him. Whatever self-esteem levels he may have, he is a young man who only needs a manager's faith, in order to flourish. Fowler knows, he has earned Brendan Rodgers'.
Ahead of the international matches, Sturridge's captain for club and country has been speaking about the impact the twenty four year old has had and his potential to improve even more. We all know that Gerrard considers his England caps to be the pinnacle of his stellar career and even if we don't all buy into that idea, one cannot fault the man's passion and patriotism. He is as concerned with the partnership Sturridge will form with matinée idol Wayne Rooney as he is with the dynamic between our dancing forward and Luis Suarez. Let's indulge Mr. Gerrard and hear what he has to say about the national set-up first.
"Wayne and Danny are both unselfish, both capable of setting each other up and scoring the goals themselves," insists Gerrard. "That's what gives me the belief it can work. That's the reason it's been working with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. They're helping each other and I think Wayne and Daniel can do similar things. You've got to understand he was playing as a wide forward at Chelsea. He scored quite a few goals from there, but the team was built around Didier Drogba -- and understandably so.
"But ever since Daniel's come to Liverpool, the manager's played him as the nine, as the main man, and as a result he's flourished. I'm sure that given the nine role for England, he can produce for England as well. I don't think Daniel has any doubts in his own ability. If he's fit and available he will be confident he can deliver at this level"
Irrespective of your feelings about Rooney or the Roy Hodgson-led Club England, the captain raises a good point. The fluidity, interchangeability and trust between our two front men is indeed what makes them a potentially memorable partnership. As an Irishman with a Scouse soul, my interest in England is purely entertainment value, and if we are honest, their national team under the hero of Malmo and Halmstads promises to be the gift that keeps on giving. However, you are a massive hypocrite if you cannot enjoy the LFC boys in white and personally, I hope Sturridge fires England to the World Cup and beyond.
To return to the notion of reputation, Gerrard is happy to admit his own comparative wariness about Sturridge when he first arrived. It is clear, that like myself and countless thousands of others, the form of our number fifteen has turned the club icon from a skeptic to an advocate.
"I had seen signs and huge potential but I hadn't seen it on a consistent basis," observes the midfield legend. "But working with him daily and seeing the form he has been in of late, it is scary to think what he might become. I have no hesitation in saying he has the potential to become world class. He is that good. The key for Daniel was to have a manager that believed in him, played him every game and built a team around him that gave him a platform to prove he is a top player."
And so begins an elongated period of wincing and angst as we wish Sturridge and Gerrard well, but secretly care only that they return intact from their sojourn with the Aggressive Face Massager. The emergent partnership of Sturridge and Luis Suarez has the potential to be magical and Liverpool fans are anxious to witness the alchemy they may produce. We're dreaming again, and it's bloody marvellous.