Sturridge’s first Premier League game for the Reds looks like being at Old Trafford this Sunday, which begs the question: can he make a ‘Speedie’ start?
Cast your minds back (if you’re old enough) to 1991, the year King Kenny stood down as manager of Liverpool Football Club and the club made the mistake of hiring Graeme Souness to replace him. Dalglish’s last signing before resigning on February 22nd was one David Speedie.
Speedie, a Scot, arrived from Coventry in time to make his debut against United at Old Trafford, and guess what? He scored in a 1-1 draw. Speedie netted a brace in the Merseyside Derby the following week and went on to score six goals in twelve league appearances for the Anfield club; however Graeme Souness didn’t fancy him and he was sold to Blackburn after less than six months as a Liverpool player.
So disregarding Speedie’s eventual fate (Sturridge has signed a long-term contract and it’s unlikely that there’ll be a managerial change in the near future), can Sturridge have the same immediate impact on the pitch 22 years on, as Speedie did back then?
Looking into Sturridge for this article, one of the first things that strikes you is that for a lad of just 23, he seems to have been around forever. One of the main reasons for this is because he burst onto the scene during his Man City day’s way back in 2008.
Ever since then he’s caught the eye at various points for both Bolton (where he spent six months on loan) and more recently for his former club Chelsea during the tenure of Andre Villas-Boas. Roberto di Matteo didn’t fancy him however, and after holding off a purchase in the summer, Liverpool have now acted quickly to bring the England international to Anfield for a reasonable fee.
For me the acquisition of Sturridge is an excellent move and one which I can see bearing fruit immediately. It’s well documented that Liverpool have lacked attacking options in the first half of the season. We’ve been almost totally reliant on Luis Suarez and, while he’s risen to the challenge spectacularly and displayed to the rest of the country the kind of absolute talent that Liverpool fans always knew he had, having Sturridge’s name on the team-sheet adds another genuine problem for opposition defences to deal with.
Sturridge has all the attributes to go on and be a real success at Liverpool. He’s quick and powerful, at 6ft 2” he adds height to the front-line and he’s strong with either foot. He prefers to play centrally and has good form there but can also play on the right of a three and has goal-scoring form playing from there too. Rodgers has said that he knows the player having monitored him at City and Chelsea, and having spoken to Sturridge at length, the Northern Irishman has been satisfied by the player’s “hunger” and “desire” to give everything for the club. This is massively important as in recent times we have signed far too many players that have either been past their best, or simply not willing or not able to produce the required standard week-in week-out.
At 23 Sturridge has, somewhat surprisingly, not yet racked up 100 Premier League appearances. To some that may be a concern or may raise the question why more managers weren’t prepared to put their faith in him, however for me it’s less concerning.
During his career to date, when a manager has shown faith and confidence in his abilities and given him a regular starting place, Sturridge has delivered, weighing in not only with goals but with assists too. During his loan spell at Bolton in 2010/11, Owen Coyle started him in twelve Premier League games as a central striker, Sturridge repaid him with eight goals. When he returned to his parent club was then under the stewardship of Andre Villas-Boas, regarded as one of the most dynamic, radical, up-and-coming managers in world football, Sturridge became almost an ever-present in the Chelsea starting line-up.
The young striker, suspended for the opening of the season, scored in a 2-1 win in his first match back and had netted nine times in the league before Christmas. Following AVB’s sacking, Sturridge went on to lose favour under di Matteo and finished the season with eleven goals and three assists in the league.
Much has been made in the press in recent times of a perceived bad attitude which has affected Sturridge’s latter days in West London. This may be of concern to some but for me, when you consider that he’d come off the back of a great loan-spell and started the season like a house on fire under AVB, to suddenly lose favour and lose his place because club politics dictate, it’s understandable why a player’s attitude would suffer.
No player has a right to start every game or play in a certain position, however you must at least feel that if you perform well you have a chance of getting your place back. Sturridge didn’t have that feeling by all accounts, and I think it’s fair to say that his opportunities were always likely to be limited at Chelsea given their ‘new Galacticos’ policy.
Can Sturridge have a ‘Speedie’ impact? Yes, in more ways than one.
Sturridge has scored several debut goals in his career, including on his full debut for Manchester City against Derby in the Premier League, on his Champions League debut for Chelsea and on his Bolton debut, when he came off the bench to score against Wolves. He scored in each of his first four games for Bolton and netted in his first league game back at Chelsea following his loan spell. Add to that now, his Liverpool debut in last weekend’s FA Cup victory.
As mentioned above, Sturridge has all the attributes and ability to make a big, instant impact in Red, including decisiveness and a touch of selfishness in front of goal – important qualities for a striker to possess. Playing with the likes of Suarez and Gerrard, and with the full backing of his manager, can only improve the young man’s game as he looks to prove the doubters wrong and cement his place in the Liverpool story.
You can catch up with Neil on Twitter @Neil1980 and on his blog http://itsallinthegameblog.wordpress.com/