Daniel Sturridge Liverpool career fades away but should be remembered

The ESPN FC crew reckon Daniel Sturridge is a worthwhile gamble for West Brom.

The ESPN FC crew reckon Daniel Sturridge is a worthwhile gamble for West Brom.

Daniel Sturridge’s loan move to West Bromwich Albion was hardly a surprise.

If the Liverpool striker wanted more game time to try and somehow impress England manager Gareth Southgate before the World Cup in Russia, he wasn’t going to get it at Anfield.

Sometimes a manager comes into your club and you simply don’t fit in. That only partly explains Jurgen Klopp’s reluctance to use Sturridge more often, as the once-prolific forward rarely seemed to be fully fit during the two-and-a-half years Klopp’s been at the club.

Because of the vagaries of the transfer market, virtually anything could happen between now and September. If he were a success under Albion boss Alan Pardew, that might mean Liverpool could demand an unreasonably large fee that they could not sanction or afford.

Whatever happens, it’s doubtful Sturridge will ever be seen in a Liverpool shirt again, certainly not as a regular choice, anyway. That’s sad in many ways as few players had the instant impact he made in 2013.

Memories of the title challenge under Brendan Rodgers a year later too often focus upon the brilliance of Luis Suarez. It’s worth noting that Suarez was also playing well and scoring plenty of goals before Sturridge’s arrival, but Liverpool still struggled badly in Rodgers’ first few months.

Sturridge gave that Liverpool team impetus, scoring on his debut against Mansfield and in his league debut against Manchester United.

With Sturridge and Suarez, Rodgers had two legitimate goal threats up front and the whole team was revitalised. It wasn’t accurately reflected in the final season points tally, but by the time 2013 ended, Liverpool were part of the title-chasing pack.

When Suarez served yet another ban — for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic — Sturridge scored in three 1-0 wins in a row to begin what could have been a historic season for the Reds.

As 2013-14 progressed, Liverpool got stronger and Sturridge’s goals became vital. It was also when fans began to doubt if they could fully rely on the former Chelsea man.

When he missed all of December 2013 because of injury, Liverpool lost three league games. That, more than the early Suarez ban or the infamous Steven Gerrard slip against Chelsea later in the season, had an impact on Liverpool’s title bid.

It was to get worse. There was some hope that Mario Balotelli — Luis Suarez’s eventual replacement — might forge a good partnership with Sturridge, but the injury absences of the latter became longer and the Italian struggled pitifully on his own.

Liverpool fans won’t forget Daniel Sturridge’s impact at the club.

Fans became less surprised by Sturridge’s absences. By the time Klopp came in and demanded even more physical effort from his players, even the forwards, it became clear that Sturridge would end up on the sidelines.

People have debated whether there was genuine physical fragility or it was more psychological. There was probably a mix of both, but as Klopp moulded his forward line to using attacking midfielders as a front three, Sturridge’s chances would have diminished even if he’d been as strong as an ox.

Roberto Firmino has developed to the point where few doubt his striker credentials. His goal against Huddersfield on Tuesday was No. 19 in an exceptional season that would be celebrated even more if Mohammed Salah weren’t grabbing most of the headlines.

The Sturridge move therefore makes sense. Pardew surely hasn’t forgotten a performance against his Newcastle side from April 2013, when Sturridge bagged two of Liverpool’s six goals, and he obviously hopes for more of the same.

That might be a little optimistic. If Pardew genuinely believes his new player can be as good as Harry Kane, he might be setting himself and Albion fans up for a big disappointment.

Liverpool fans won’t be terribly sad to see Sturridge go. They are more concerned about there being little or no backup for Firmino.

Given the club just received a huge cash injection from Barcelona for Philippe Coutinho, supporters look set to spend the next few months praying nothing bad happens to their remaining Brazilian. It’s a huge gamble not to buy anyone.

Liverpool’s title challenge of 2014 can’t be casually dismissed just because it ended in failure. That would be unfair to the numerous individuals who excelled that year and whose bright, inventive football was often a joy to watch.

Sturridge was a major factor in that challenge. In a sport that often focuses on real achievement and instantly forgets those who won little or no silverware, his impact on Liverpool might vanish in the mists of time.

Few who were there to witness it will forget, though. Moments such as chipping from 25 yards into an empty Everton net and standing arrogantly still, in front of their fans, can’t be erased that easily.

Speak about what might have been if you must, but what actually happened was pretty good, too, and shouldn’t be neglected.

Steven Kelly is one of ESPN FC’s Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @SteKelly198586.

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