It was only three minutes into a game against Chelsea for West Brom this past February when Daniel Sturridge pulled up with his latest injury. As he crumbled to the pitch, so too did his already-remote chances at making the summer’s World Cup squad for England.
Alan Pardew revealed Sturridge was “distraught” heading down to the tunnel, looking set to add another couple of months to the 567 days he’s spent on the sidelines since January 2013 via 14 different injuries.
Sturridge – left to watch the impending chaos unfold at the Hawthorns from afar last season – no doubt shared the general public consensus of “where the f*** did it all go wrong?”
That sauceless West Brom experience might have ended up being the perfect antidote to sharpen Sturridge’s focus. Leaving the mess in the West Midlands behind him, Sturridge seems to have had a mental reset heading into this season with Liverpool. In pre-season – with six goals to his names – he’s apppeared as relaxed, cool and collected as he was back in his prime of 2013-14, when his demeanour set benchmarks – on and off the pitch – for a new generation of footballers.
Gonna bless your timeline with some 13/14 prime Daniel Sturridge, soo underrated
— Josh🇪🇬 (@SalahSZN) August 2, 2018
Sturridge was the first player to pioneer the current “culture” that’s seen a new wave of players including Raheem Sterling, Paul Pogba and Hector Bellerin become cultural icons, as well as sporting ones. Four years ago, Sturridge was not only violating defences week-in and week-out, but he was doing it while maintaining the sort of clout that a younger generation of players looked up to.
Sturridge was sitting in the front row at London Fashion Week long before Hector Bellerin, he was setting up his own record label while Pogba was dabbing with Stormzy and he set the standard in truly owning a goal celebration – Antoine Griezmann is still trying it.
Studge shining again isn’t only a reminder of his goal-scoring prowess, but of his status as an innovator when it comes to how athletes can be perceived.
Sturridge remains the only player in the Prem to rep independent brands such as Liam Hodges, and he donned Off-White way before it became a pop culture phenomenon and seen on the feet of everyone from Ruben Neves to Harry Kane. While we now see UK rappers and footballers linking on a more regular basis, Sturridge was hanging out with Drake and Jhene Aiko before the new gen knew who they were, exhibiting to the world that footballers could break the mould by daring to have interests outside of their day job.
“Liverpool fans see Sturridge as an ex they can’t get over.”
The “vibes” for Sturridge on his return to the big stage definitely seem right. That word in particular has been mentioned by the 28-year-old relentlessly across various social media and interview posts throughout Liverpool’s pre-season.
“The Vibes” are clearly important for the modern player – you only have to look at the difference in Paul Pogba’s performances in a France and United shirt for confirmation of that – and Sturridge is now back to projecting good energy on to the rest of the squad and the world of football once more.
Just as Liverpool fans see Sturridge as an ex they can’t get over, Sturridge has likened his return to Liverpool as a second chance with a girlfriend: “If you’ve been for a woman for a long time and you don’t feel like it’s working out any more, but then you realise when you go away, you know what…me and my relationship with my girl was kinda sweet still!”
It’s a love affair that’s set to be rekindled once more this season. While a section of fans remain hesitant to invest themselves in a player so riddled with injuries, Sturridge has got the vast majority of Liverpool fans foaming at the mouth once again. He’s enjoyed a scintillating pre-season that has seen him score six, assist two more and generally swan about in the same manner that he was when carving up teams for fun back in 13/14 – when he was a genuinely world class striker.
While it’s half a decade since Sturridge was at the peak of his powers, it’s clear his influence on the game since then has left its mark. Now that the vibes around him are right once more and the sauce has returned in pre-season, the O.G. is ready to remind everyone why they fell in love with him.
We’re here for the second coming of Daniel Sturridge.