Loan moves have a number of purposes for a player and a club. For a young player it is normally about getting vital first team experience on someone else’s watch. The parent club can watch him make mistakes for someone else whilst assessing if he has was it takes to make the step up. Many top players have benefited from loan moves earlier in their career. From Harry Kane to David Beckham.
For an older player though, it is normally code for “my club don’t want me anymore but no one will pay any money for me”. Which isn’t a great position for anyone to be in, not least a footballer once thought of as world class. So when Daniel Sturridge went on loan last season, to West Brom no less, and then barely featured due to injury, I think most of us thought that was the end of his Liverpool career.
Some would have been happy to tear up his contract and cut our losses.
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And maybe if there had been a decent offer in the summer it would have been. But after a season of not contributing for Liverpool or West Brom offers probably weren’t flooding in. So he stayed at Liverpool, and now he’s just been named Liverpool’s Player of the Month for September. Which is a remarkable turnaround, all things considered.
It should be pointed out that, of the six games in September, Sturridge only featured in four and only started two, so he hasn’t suddenly gone from outsider to first name on the team sheet. He has also probably benefited from the fact that his starts, and goals, come at the end of the month so everyone remembers them more. But still, it is all very unexpected and very welcome to those of us have always loved watching Daniel Sturridge.
But we all need to be careful with our hearts, of course. We’ve been careless before and then left heartbroken by another injury. But does something feel different this time, or is it just wishful thinking? For starters Liverpool are less reliant on Sturridge now, so don’t need to overplay him. In the 2014/15 season, for example, Liverpool had just lost Luis Suarez and the wheels were falling off. Any chance he could get, Brendan Rodgers would throw Sturridge in, but it can’t have been good for him. In fact it wasn’t. He kept getting injured.
Now Jurgen Klopp has more talent at his disposal and can be more careful with Sturridge’s minutes. Sturridge too seems more accepting of his place in the squad than before. Talking this week about doing “whatever the manager feels is best for the team” and being “ready to give your all” when Jurgen Klopp requires it. This might seem like standard football talk, but it comes across as heartfelt. The tone and sincerity are new. It’s a more humble Sturridge than we have had before.
I guess West Brom must be a pretty humbling place. If he had ideas of going there, scoring a tonne of goals and even forcing himself into the England squad, it certainly didn’t work out like that. He also may not have factored for the negativity around a football club that has been struggling. Going from a club managed by Jurgen Klopp on the way to the Champions League final, to a club managed by Alan Pardew on the way to rock bottom.
The only comparably experience would have been Bolton Wanderers in 2011. There, a young Sturridge with a point to prove scored for fun, helping Bolton to a 14th place finish. It would have felt a much more positive place than West Brom, which felt like a club not just sliding down to the Championship but driving off a cliff in a stolen taxi. He must have wondered what the hell he had joined.
So maybe it is no wonder Sturridge seems more upbeat now he’s safely back in Melwood. Back with elite level players and a chance of glory. A fit and happy Sturridge has found a more receptive Jurgen Klopp. It probably isn’t quite a marriage made in heaven, but a marriage of convenience could work fine too.
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Sturridge could be the difference for Liverpool this season. An unlikely hero returned.