Walking out onto the pitch at Craven Cottage a former Chelsea player, Fulham fans were already inclined to welcome Daniel Sturridge back to London in the unfriendliest manner possible—and three goals followed by his usual celebratory dancing didn't incline them to be any more welcoming. For Sturridge, though, it's all part of the game.
"I love that," said Sturridge of the anger rained down on him Sunday by the home faithful and the way it pushed him to respond with a Man of the Match performance. "I hope the fans do it every game. It doesn't really matter what they say to me. I love the banter, it's what I live for. So hopefully they'll keep giving me stick."
It was far from Sturridge's first good game as a Red, but it was certainly his best, with Fulham providing the striker with a chance to take his goal tally up to ten in just ten starts and thirteen league appearances overall for Liverpool, while he has also added another goal in two FA Cup appearances.
"I'm relaxed, I'm enjoying my football, and I'm enjoying being out on the football field," he added. "When the manager believes in you and gives you an opportunity, you have to go out there and work as hard as you can. If you can do that then hopefully, your ability will shine through."
And he attributes his improved form since moving to Liverpool in part simply to that—to being given an opportunity. Just getting a fair chance was something Sturridge never believed he was given at Chelsea, the player growing increasingly certain that no matter what he did on the pitch he would only ever end up back on the bench.
"I am a lot more peaceful and I'm playing with a clear mind," he said. "Before, there were a lot of things going on and mentally it was hard for me. It's difficult when you do well and then don't play the next game as you feel 'what more can I do?'"
As for what comes next for Sturridge at Liverpool, the striker refuses to commit to a target, either for himself or Liverpool. Instead, he's worried about focusing on each game as it comes. If he and the rest of the squad and any new signings that arrive over the summer can do that, he believes that gives both the club and himself their best chances of getting where they want to go.
"We just need to focus on the one league game we've got left and then come back and work hard in pre-season," he concluded. "We need to leave the manager to do his job in terms of whether he's going to make any signings and as players we all just need to come into work every day with the right attitude and implement what the manager wants us to do."
It sounds simple enough in theory. Just how easy or hard it might turn out to be in practice will depend at least in part on how often Sturridge can put on the kind of performance he did on Sunday—and if opposition jeers help, Liverpool fans will be hooping to hear the boos rain down any time they're on the road.