Daniel Sturridge looked set to go down as one of Liverpool’s shrewdest signings ever after the club signed him from Chelsea in January of 2012 for a mere £12M. He scored just seven minutes into his first appearance for the club and in that first half-season with the club he scored at a rate of a goal every 110 minutes.
In 2013-14, he made a case for being England’s best homegrown striker and one of the league’s top three alongside then-teammate Luis Suarez and Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero. That year, he scored a goal or assist at a rate of 1.15 per 90 minutes, a world class return for a man who only 12 months earlier had been unwanted surplus at Chelsea.
Then, he began to struggle with injuries. Sturridge had always been prone to missing a few games with a knock, but he was fit more often than not. He was injury prone, but not to the point a club would worry about counting on him. Now, after playing 49 games in his first 18 months at the club, he has played just 23 since the end of the 2013-14 season.
"He’s desperate to play and wants to show his teammates, the fans, and everyone connected to the club how passionate he is to be playing football," Sturridge’s uncle and former Derby County striker Dean Sturridge told Sky this week, insisting the player is only concerned about proving he can still be the top striker Liverpool so desperately need.
Having now missed more Liverpool games through injury than he’s played, the 26-year-old has increasingly become a favoured target of rumour mongers, and even most Liverpool fans have begun to believe the club’s future isn’t likely to involve the striker—at least not in any meaningful way. Sturridge, though, wants to show that isn’t the case.
"This has probably been the most difficult time in his career," added Dean Sturridge. "He’s had a run of injuries that have stopped his career going the way he would want. First and foremost now, he wants to show Liverpool fans how desperate he is to play and score goals, and he wants to contribute to this team that has [struggled] the past five or six weeks."
Sturridge was fit enough to make the bench on the weekend, though with two Liverpool players needing to be replaced early due to injury, he wasn’t able to make it on the pitch as a late substitute. He is expected, though, to play against West Ham this evening in Liverpool’s FA Cup replay, and there is some speculation he could even be given a start.
Hopefully, whatever happens tonight and however close to full match fitness Sturridge is, this time around he’s fit for the long haul and can prove that the 18 months of injury hell he has struggled through are just a setback in his career rather than a complete derailment of it.