Daniel Sturridge: Early Read on the Role He'll Play for Liverpool This Season

Mark Jones@@Mark_Jones86Featured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2013

MANSFIELD, ENGLAND - JANUARY 06: Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool battles with Chris Clements of Mansfield Town during the FA Cup with Budweiser Third Round match between Mansfield Town and Liverpool at One Call Stadium on January 6, 2013 in Mansfield, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The suggestion that a footballer can be "as good as he wants to be" can often be seen as damning him with faint praise.

Daniel Sturridge has been the subject of such words for pretty much his entire career—a career which has frequently shown flashes of brilliance which are seemingly spread around at random.

One of the reasons why these were just flashes and nothing more is the limited opportunities he’s been given.

Breaking through at Manchester City during the Thaksin Shinawatra era saw him competing for a place upfront with such varied characters as Darius Vassell, Emile Mpenza, Rolando Bianchi, Georgios Samaras, Valeri Bojinov, Benjani, Ched Evans and Felipe Caicedo. It was a diverse and large group, and the young Sturridge would force his way to the front of the queue only to be pulled to the back again.

When the Abu Dhabi millions kicked in, the process was only made more complicated by the arrivals of the likes of Robinho and Craig Bellamy, and with his contract winding down, Sturridge took a gamble and jumped ship to Chelsea. He was out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Suddenly competition was coming in the form of Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka, Salomon Kalou and later Fernando Torres.

Playing time was limited to cup matches and late substitute appearances. Although Sturridge did find a way out and joined Bolton on loan, the spell only lasted 12 matches up to the end of the season—matches which yielded an impressive eight goals—before his brief spot in the limelight was over again.

The move to Liverpool represents the biggest step that Sturridge has taken in his career so far; a career that could well become defined by just what he does at Anfield.

The Reds have been a staunchly mid-table team this season, but there is nothing about the club that is mediocre.

By leaving Chelsea for the Reds, Sturridge has joined a club still hugely relevant on the global scene—and "the biggest in the Premier League" according to the man himself—but one where he is sure to be given the prolonged chances to impress that he didn’t get elsewhere.

Liverpool’s dearth of striking options have been visible throughout the campaign as Luis Suarez has carried them on his shoulders for almost the entirety of it, with the injury to Fabio Borini—a former teammate on the Stamford Bridge sidelines with Sturridge—forcing the Uruguayan into a pressurised position as the Reds’ main man.

Of course, that is a position he thrives in. Whilst there should be no doubt that he will remain as the man most likely to get Liverpool a goal, Sturridge offers encouraging support.

The pair will certainly start enough matches together—particularly at Anfield. But whilst Sturridge’s precise role on the pitch is still to be defined—and with the nature of the modern game, that position is likely to change frequently anyway—his role in the squad should be easier to determine. He has to score goals.

In that regard, his signing should rank as the most exciting that Liverpool have made since Suarez two years ago. Whilst Sturridge might not bring guaranteed goals like the Torres of a few years ago or the Suarez of the here and now, it is the supplementary role that he will play which will prove to be most important.

A move to a team on a similar level to Liverpool in the Premier League, but a club on a much lower level to them worldwide simply wouldn’t have excited him. Sturridge is a player who wants to thrive on the big occasion but has far too often been restricted to just sampling bite-sized chunks of them.

So he is a player who is still learning, but so is this Liverpool team.

If they can learn, improve and go forward together, then theirs could be a very exciting partnership.