Upon joining a new group in an unfamiliar workplace, one must navigate the inevitable period of awkwardness as one adapts to a different dynamic. Much, of course, depends on the comparative friendliness of those whose web of trust you, as the newbie, are seeking to penetrate. We've all experienced the feelings of gauche angst that plague us as we encounter a fresh batch of colleagues. Often such insecurities are warrranted and I recall being roundly shunned in one particular
hell-hole educational institution for the egregious sins of having used one chap's favourite mug and taken another's seat.
On reflection, my haughty disdain and derisive sneers, when presented with the full import of my crimes against that school's staffroom status quo, may have worsened my first impressions somewhat. It was a dark and unpleasant time for this shy, retiring and easily cowed scribbler, with much maudlin eating alone and half-hearted doing of crosswords. Teachers can be a horrible lot, make no mistake, and staffrooms are vipers' nests full of, well, vipers.
Thankfully, Daniel Sturridge has entered a far less benighted and socially stunted milieu at Liverpool Football Club. The former Chelsea, Bolton and Manchester City star has been embraced by his colleagues at Anfield and the daily routine at Melwood seems to be a source of professional contentment for our in-form striker. One can imagine the japes and high-jinks would be most entertaining with the likes of José Enrique milling about the place but it is the genuine warmth that he has felt from his new team-mates that has made the strongest impression on Sturridge.
The cameraderie and fellowship he has Found with Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard, in particular, has had a profound effect on the forward and he is quick to acknowledge the centrality of both men in his stellar start to his Anfield career. That start should not be underestimated. His strike-rate is phenomenal and his assists and general play have been remarkable. Suarez is one of the few who can rival his consistency and Sturridge speaks highly of the Uruguayan.
"He's a nice guy and we have a great chemistry on the field and we get on well off it, so it's good," he avouched to Life and Times. "It's easier when you've got someone like Luis, who can help you share the goals out, and we've also got the likes of Steven Gerrard and Victor Moses who can pitch in. So there are goals throughout the team. Hopefully we can continue with the form we have at the moment."
However, as a relatively young man, Sturridge will naturally look for guidance and seek mentors. In his captain for club and country, Steven Gerrard, the striker feels he has a truly inspirational figure to aspire to and learn from. It is not only in a professional capacity that Gerrard has impressed his young England colleague. When asked if there was anyone he considered a mentor, Sturridge was unequivocal.
"I would say Gerrard's one player," he says, "because he's a great man on and off the field. He's one of the people who gets on with everybody and he's an incredible man to be honest with you. Since I've been here he's taken care of me and helped me a lot in terms of settling into the club, settling into the city and it's great to have him around. He's been one of the world's best players for many years and I've got so much respect for him."
The love-in does not end with Gerrard and Suarez, however. Sturridge's cup positively runneth over currently and he is happy to spread the credit. Like most of the squad, the young England starter seems eager to commend Brendan Rodgers highly for fostering the correct environment for success and guiding the team expertly on the pitch. He is also viewing Merseyside as bathed in a particularly sunny glow, at present, revelling in the Scouse wit and even accepting the barbs from those of a bluer hue.
"It's been amazing to be part of it. It's like a family, the way the vibe is at the club," he insisted. "Even the city -- everybody's into football and you've got the Liverpool and Everton fans in the street giving you banter. It's not intense, but there's a strong desire for success and everybody wants to help Liverpool get back to the winning ways that they had in the past and that's up to us. Everybody wants to have success. It's not about getting by and being content with second or third. It's about having a winning mentality and that's something the manager's instilled in us now, where everybody's got that feeling to want to win every game."
When read back, that last sentence seems like the most basic requirement of professionalism, but we know what Sturridge is driving at. Psychology is at the heart of any sporting success and Rodgers seems to have a certain proficiency when it comes to convincing his players and motivating them. Oddly, if recent games are anything to go by, this winning mentality seems to have taken precedence over his previously dearly-held belief in possession-football at all costs. The manager seems to have enjoyed success so much that his philosophy has adapted to perpetuate it, and with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge at the business end of the pitch, one can understand the temptation to shore-up the defence and trust to their unique alchemy to secure the result.
Whatever the manager's thinking in terms of tactics and formation, his faith in Daniel Sturridge has yielded the best spell in the striker's career, as he has responded perfectly to the trust Rodgers has placed in him. It would be a surly and recalcitrant individual who would begrudge this young man his current success, but alas, as I discovered back in that bleak and soulless staffroom, such saturnine husks of humanity are out there, utterly unmoved by the daft abandon of the Sturridge Shuffle. Their loss.