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Sturridge Turns Heartbreak to Hope

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After the spirit-crushingly narrow defeat in last season's title race, Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge says that Brendan Rodgers and his men have overcome their understandable chagrin and are filled with "confidence and belief." Oddly, we are too.

Rejected again, Glen vowed that one day HE would be Stevie's set-dancing partner
Rejected again, Glen vowed that one day HE would be Stevie's set-dancing partner
Alex Livesey

In the buttoned-down, emotionally stunted culture that is still pervasive in much of British society, one simply does not act the braggart. It is still perceived as boorish and brash in the extreme to be in any way boastful or self-congratulatory. Of course, these rules don't apply to non-Brits. The oddly contradictory folk of the media love a cocky or bolshy outburst from Johnny Foreigner. Look at the absolute obsession with the manager of Chelsea FC. From his initial supercilious display of smug self-regard to this very day, the fawning of journalists over the Portuguese preener is difficult to bear.

This season the overweening pomposity of Louis Van Gaal has given England's press a second focus for their doe-eyed, maladroit veneration. Already they have made the spine-bothering readjustment from all-hailing the conquering king to issuing plaintive appeals for the poor mite as he battles the tyranny of the United ownership for possession of our souls. The Dutchman, who certainly does not require any boost in his own self-assurance, will see their needy sycophancy and despise them for it. They in turn will be grateful for his disdain. It's a pathetic and disquieting dance that only some seem to perceive the truth of.

Against this frenzy of gauche press kowtowing and arrogant managerial posturing it is quite a relief to see that at Liverpool Football Club the manager and the players are retaining a pleasing balance and humility in their interactions with the ubiquitous cameras and microphones. Of course, the gents of Fleet Street have gotten tremendous mileage out of any inkling of hubristic talk from the manager, but for the most part all they have done is twist his words and prove my earlier thesis. It is simply not okay to be British or Irish and express anything other than the mandatory false modesty.

Rodgers, a very loquacious and media savvy gent, knows that his words have weight but he is defiantly not a disciple of Fergusonian mind games and his players speak with the humble awareness but quiet confidence that one would expect from a group of young men who have been mentored by the Antrim man. Even last season, when Luis Suarez, arguably the world's form footballer, was still a Redman, it seemed to irk the voracious hacks even more that such a controversial talent retained a courteous and almost shy demeanour when interviewed. That Suarez had the decency to not become the hate-filled spewer of bile that they would have loved remains a credit to him.

From the moment Daniel Sturridge danced/wriggled his way into the public consciousness as a Liverpool front man par excellence in January of 2013, he has been saying pretty much exactly the correct thing in precisely the right fashion. This eloquent young man has not had to rely on simply doing his talking on the pitch -- although what a stunningly articulate oration that has been. Unlike his old partner in attack, the Birmingham native has always been very easy around the media. His natural ebullience and self-possession were previously painted as arrogance and aloof conceit by our friends with the poisoned keyboards and inferiority complexes. Indeed the hatchet job done on Sturridge was so complete that your scribbler was in the misguided majority who were incredibly wary of the expenditure of £12m on the young striker -- what a salutary lesson in taking media narratives with a gallon drum of salt.

In scoring his thirty sixth goal on his fiftieth appearance for Liverpool, Sturridge did not just claim a vital three points on the opening day of the campaign, he also registered a more prolific opening half century of games than the stellar likes of Ian Rush, Kenny Dalglish, Robbie Fowler and Fernando Torres. It is a massively impressive return and if last season's ratio of 21 strikes in 29 Premier League appearances can be extrapolated to a full season, there are all sorts of records up for grabs. Sturridge, as calm and positive as ever, put into context the heartbreak of last season, whilst dexterously shifting the focus onto the group's hopes for the campaign to come. Brendan Rodgers would be proud.

"The manager has made some great signings and we are looking forward to having a successful season," insisted the tremendously gifted forward. "Everyone is hungry for success here. We were heartbroken last season but we have got ourselves mentally ready, especially with the Champions League. That is something I can’t wait to play in, nor can anyone else here. It took a while to get over last season. It’s not easy to get over something like that, it’s not easy at all, but we are over it and we are looking forward to the future. God willing, we will bring success to the club. I’m certainly thankful for everything that has come my way. Long may it continue.

"It’s early in the season but we have got a confidence and belief in our squad. It doesn’t matter who the opposition is. We have got a belief in the manager’s philosophy, in the individuals we have and in the way we play collectively. We believe we can beat anyone. We have got off to a good start but there are 37 more games to go. It is very early to say who is going to win the league, who is going to be in the top four. We go about our business silently. Last season we were underdogs and this season we will be underdogs. We just go out and try and perform as best as we can. It doesn’t matter what the opposition is, it doesn’t faze us."

It is massively encouraging to see a wonderful Liverpool footballer posing such a conundrum for the chattering classes. Humble but confident, respectful but defiant, hungry but grateful for what he has been given, Daniel Sturridge is creating his own narrative, one that confounds expectations and defies stereotypes. The unimaginative likes of Sky Sports best go back to currying favour with Manchester United's gaffer and ingratiating themselves with Chelsea's guru of self-appreciation -- at least they know what to expect with them. Daniel Sturridge, Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool continue to be a delightfully unknown quantity.