Liverpool and England striker Daniel Sturridge was playing the best football of his career before an ankle injury in training interrupted his season in late November. The 24-year-old had already scored 11 times by then and further enhanced his reputation as a genuine attacking force in the Premier League.
Sturridge's move from Chelsea to Liverpool in January 2013 looks better with his every match-winning performance. His confidence is high, a partnership with Luis Suarez is blossoming, and he's getting exactly what he hoped for—regular playing time.
As part of a special Christmas week of exclusives at Bleacher Report, I spoke to Sturridge on the phone last week to address everything from his life in Liverpool to his footballing heroes and those famous goal celebrations.
Will Tidey: How do you explain your electric form this season? Have you worked on anything in particular? Or is it just the natural result of continued improvement and a willingness to develop?
Daniel Sturridge: I think it's down to being given the opportunity to play regularly. I've also been working hard on the training ground and going to the gym to get stronger. Heading is something I've paid particular attention to. But I'm trying to improve every single area of my game. Even when I'm injured, I'm working on my upper body strength. I'm always thinking about improving.
WT: How have you found the people in Liverpool? Do you get recognised a lot when you're out and about? Ever get any stick from opposing fans?
DS: You can get around; it's not too bad. I live in town and I do like to be out and about. I don't mind if fans stop me. I'll have a conversation with them. You get a little banter from Everton fans, but it doesn't really matter. It's all in good humour.
WT: Do you spend much time studying your opponents? For example, do you watch showreels of defenders and figure out the best way to get at them?
DS: They show us pre-game videos. Every club does that now. You can watch pre-match vids if you want to—it's down to you. The Liverpool guys always give you a lot of information, and I like to watch a lot of games on TV. I see the defenders and try to learn as much as I can before I face them.
WT: Who would you say are the leaders in the Liverpool dressing room? And who are the entertainers? Where do you fit in?
DS: In terms of being most vocal, the leaders are Steven Gerrard, Kolo Toure and Daniel Agger. Banter-wise, there are a few who get involved. I'm one of those. I like to be vocal at times and I do like to get fired up. I enjoy going to work and I always have a smile on my face.
WT: You've become known for your goal celebrations. Is it something you consciously rehearse? Or just a natural impulse to scoring?
DS: When I was younger, I used to always do other people's celebrations. I did (Faustino) Asprilla's cartwheel, (Thierry) Henry's celebration. Mine came from an inside joke; my family members told me to do it. I did it one game, then not the next and the fans were asking why not. After that I had to do it every time.
WT: What parts of your game do you feel need the most attention? Are there particular areas you're focused on improving?
DS: I focus on every single aspect. I'm never going to rest on my laurels, and I'm never going to get complacent or comfortable. I know the importance of everything. I've got to keep pushing myself, because nobody else will.
WT: Which current players in the game inspire you, and why?
DS: You look at someone like (Cristiano) Ronaldo, who's constantly improving and pushing himself. He's pushing himself to his limits—be it heading or shooting. He's a complete player and he's unbelievable. I always enjoy watching him play.
WT: Which would provide you the most pleasure—a blistering run and cross to set up a goal for a teammate, or a tap-in inside the six-yard box for a goal you scored yourself?
DS: It depends. I really do enjoy setting up goals. There's no better feeling than giving somebody a tap-in. At the same time, I love scoring. It's about the circumstances, I guess. When I played against Sunderland and scored, that was a great feeling. But I felt the same when I set Luis (Suarez) up.
WT: Do you think the media are overly harsh on England? Most have given us very little chance of making a serious challenge in Brazil.
DS: We'll just go out there and enjoy ourselves. We should embrace the moment of a World Cup, because some players don't get the opportunity. It's just important to enjoy it and not worry. Every team I've played for, I've always dreamt of being involved at a World Cup.
WT: What advice would you give to a young forward trying to learn his or her craft? What are the key areas to focus on if you want to succeed in the modern game?
DS: Self-improvement is key; never getting complacent. You should always be prepared to listen to advice from teammates. You need to have the right diet, not be going out smoking and drinking, and stay focused. Learn the game from every player you come across. Study the game.
WT: What's it been like playing with Suarez this season? How do you explain his prolific form?
DS: I don't know the secret of his success. He's just performing at a higher level than anybody right now. He's working hard and he's doing what he's always wanted to—performing as a world-class player. He's a great player, and we get on really well.
WT: Can Liverpool win the title?
DS: For now, we just need to focus on the top four.
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