PFA Young Player 2014: Why Daniel Sturridge Deserves the Individual Recognition

Trevor MurrayContributor IApril 22, 2014

Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge celebrates after scoring against Swansea City during their English Premier League soccer match at Anfield Stadium, Liverpool, England, Sunday Feb. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Jon Super

The time has come for the best of the best to be chosen by their peers. And Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge is facing fierce competition for the PFA Young Player of the Year Award.

It's been a whirlwind season. And it's not over just yet.

For most clubs it's been an incredibly difficult campaign to predict as many a pundit's start-of-season predictions were shredded before they even had time to take shape.

Yet as the managerial merry-go-round began to take its toll on a variety of teams, some spotted their window of opportunity and stood up to their new-found environment with aplomb and decisiveness.

Whether it was managers striving to come up with new tactical master plans or players keen to make a big impact on the league, there has been quite a number of smart innovators.

One such player is Daniel Sturridge.

Having been under-used and very much unappreciated at both Manchester City and Chelsea, the 24-year-old refused to content himself with a nice salary as a bit-part player for either club.

Speaking to the club's official website (h/t BBC) on the confirmation of his transfer all those months ago, Sturridge confirmed his go-getting mentality:  

I've not signed here to play for a couple of years and then move on. I've signed to be here for as long as possible. It's a humongous club - for me, one of the biggest in the world.

He had grown fed up of life on the sidelines and when Liverpool came calling at the beginning of 2013 he snatched the opportunity with relish.

Scoring 10 goals between January and May after signing for the Reds, the England international couldn't have had a brighter start to life on Merseyside, and he immediately won over the fans with his goals—and his celebrations.

Since then, he's not looked back.

Most importantly of all, though, was the manner in which he so convincingly took up the mantle once more in 2013/14.

Analysts and pundits galore, at the time, such as  Bleacher Report's Willie Gannon pinpointed the negative ramifications of Luis Suarez's 10-match ban from last year.

And Fox Sports Asia's Noah Tan also weighed in to suggest that the Uruguay international star striker was the only one really capable of bringing any sort of success to them.

All in all, it seemed highly probable that the absence of Suarez wouldn't help Liverpool in the long-run and their aspirations of challenging United's position as champions looked to have been dealt a huge blow before the season had even begun.

Cue Daniel Sturridge rising to the occasion to help his side avoid a Suarez-less slump.

And in the process he began to dissipate the idea of him as playing second fiddle. In the process, he planted the idea of him as a saviour in his own right firmly in the fans' minds.

Netting four goals in their opening five matches, he single-handedly guided his side through a potentially turbulent period to ensure they got off to a good start—something that every title hopeful needs.

Most notably of all in that opening series of matches, was his goal that proved the difference in an early-season crunch match against Manchester United.

And that stood them in good stead as they're now in a commanding position at the top of the table.

Since then, he's nabbed a further 16 as well as providing ample support with seven assists. Not to mention the fact he's developed a scintillating partnership with Suarez to rival the SAS partnership of old that led Blackburn Rovers to their first-ever Premier League trophy.

But his goals haven't just been regular, they've been important—underlining his ability to rise to the occasion when needed. 

Scoring in both Merseyside derbies as well as pouncing to slot a goal past Arsenal, Sturridge has proven that he can be relied on just as much as Luis Suarez to rattle the back of the net on the big match days. 

Having played less matches than fellow nominees Eden Hazard, Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling and Luke Shaw, albeit marginally due to injury, his achievements are all the more impressive. He's scored more than any of the others on the list and comes second in assists only to Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey, who has eight to his name.

Considering the striker's main concern is to hit the back of the net on a consistent basis, he's more than kept pace with the other players on the short-list in other key departments, too.

And although the battle to scoop the award has been highly competitive, there's plenty of reason to believe he's already proven his worth.  

The fact that they are guaranteed Champions League football thanks, in huge part, to his goals certainly adds to his appeal. And helping to fire the Reds to the top of the table with a clear shot at taking a top division title for the first time in 24 years is more than sufficient criteria to win the award. 

And it's certainly the recognition he deserves.