Only half the ‘SAS’ may still be knocking around in Merseyside, but will Daniel Sturridge re-discover the scintillating form he once found at Liverpool?
“Sturridge! Back to Suarez who cuts in side and pulls it back to STURRIDGE! – Liverpool score and it’s that SAS combination again- Sturridge and Suarez!”
For Liverpool fans, the formidable partnership of the ‘SAS’ will seem a distant memory. But for a time, they had it good – really good.
The scintillating feet of Daniel Sturridge accompanied by the outstanding raw talent of Luis Suarez would put the fear into most Premier League defences. Fast forward a few years and the ‘SAS’ has somewhat diminished. Suarez, regarded as one of the best strikers to have graced the hallowed Anfield turf left for pastures new – Barcelona more specifically – to fill his ambition of winning trophies and who can blame him? Leaving England striker, Daniel Sturridge to find a new compatriot to reform the illustrious ‘SAS’ team.
But four years on, Sturridge is still waiting. In fact, he’s not even been in the reckoning.
Sturridge joined Liverpool from Premier League rivals, Chelsea. Red’s boss, Brendan Rodgers had seen something in the former Manchester City academy product to believe he could be one of two protagonists to lead the Reds line – and how right he was. Rodgers has always been one to spot talent and he got this one spot on. Sturridge excelled when he was fit. The striker oozed class and created a ferocious partnership with Uruguayan goal machine, Luis Suarez. The two just had a telepathy – a mutual understanding and appreciation for each others game. Liverpool were flying in the league. The ‘SAS’ they called them – ‘Sturridge And Suarez’, they were unstoppable.
Yet, good things in football don’t seem to last forever and before long, Barcelona came knocking for Suarez. The former Ajax striker was tearing the Premier League apart and the Spanish giants had been taking notes. Liverpool’s hands were tied after failing to win the Premier League – they’d come so close, but Suarez was gone – leaving Sturridge to pick up the pieces. The relationship had ended, it was over.
Rodgers tried to fix the issue. Finding solutions, but none seemed compatible. Christian Benteke, Danny Ings and Divock Origi all came in to fill the void but the chemistry wasn’t there alongside Sturridge who cut a lost without the magnificent Suarez; who took no time to settle into life at Barcelona. Rodgers threw the dice once more and picked up a Brazilian lad, Robert Firmino – he seemed to have all the potential but wasn’t the finished article quite yet. Liverpool needed an immediate impact and fast.
Sturridge, blighted with injury couldn’t regain fitness and after dips in form, lack of partnerships and game time found himself on the periphery. The next big blow to the forward was when Brendan Rodgers was told he could leave Anfield and in stepped German boss, Jurgen Klopp. The former Borussia Dortmund manager had his own ideas and philosophy to implicate as well as bringing in new faces to help push Liverpool forward. Sturridge was moved aside.
Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino were the next to be tried and tested under Klopp. The trio passed with flying colours and the Anfield faithful had all but forgotten about the ‘SAS’ – the new boys were in town and flying! Salah couldn’t stop scoring. Firmino was the linchpin and Mane’s direct approach pushed the Red’s forward. Together, they were a force.
Watching from the sidelines and in a desperate bid to salvage his career, Sturridge joined West Brom on loan last season but looked a little off the pace. Lacking in first team football, hampered by injuries, struggling with confidence – was this the end of Daniel Sturridge?
Credit where credits due, the English striker wouldn’t take no for an answer and this season joined the Red’s pre-season in a rich vain of form, reminiscent of the old Sturridge that Anfield were used to seeing week in, week out. Speaking to the Guardian after bagging his fourth goal in a prolific pre-season, Sturridge revealed he was still hungry to prove his critics wrong and stake a claim for first team football under Klopp.
He said, “I have always been hungry, you know that. The hunger will never change. I’m taking every day as it comes with a positive mind-set. That’s all I’m going to do. Pre-season has been going great but, you know, I’m not getting too carried away. It’s just great to be part of the club and helping and making sure that we can win games.”
The ‘SAS’ may no longer be around, but Sturridge is back and looking sharp. Whilst Mo Salah, Bobby Firmino and Sadio Mane are still the go-to guys at Liverpool, it looks as if Sturridge has wriggled his way back into the fold. The 29-year-old will get a chance – it may be through injury, suspension or a cup game, but when the time comes, Sturridge must be ready to hit the ground running. There’s no time to plateau under Klopp, it’s all about performing under pressure – something Sturridge has done in the past.
No-one doubts his technical ability. In fact, Sturridge stands out and is counted for when it comes to talent – the question is, can he turn that talent into performances under Klopp?
One has to admire the resilience shown by Sturridge who could have thrown in the towel long ago. It says a lot about his character. Sturridge, a devout Christian has openly expressed his passion for Jesus and often quotes a verse from the Bible which can be found in a book called, Philippians which says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.
When things aren’t going the way we anticipate in life, when we are out of the reckoning, it’s easy to throw in the towel and opt for the easy option. Sturridge’s Christian faith will have been the cornerstone on which he can lean upon for strength to keep going through the storm he finds himself in.
Whether Sturridge finds himself back in the Liverpool squad or not remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, the striker has bags of resilience and a faith which helps keep his career in perspective – and that is priceless.