x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

For Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge, there is no place like home

After a few stops around England, it appears Daniel Sturridge has finally found the right environment at Liverpool, but for how long?

Liverpool's  Daniel Sturridge, left, started his professional career with Manchester City when he was just 17 but is starting to thrive at Liverpool. Paul Ellis / AFP
Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge, left, started his professional career with Manchester City when he was just 17 but is starting to thrive at Liverpool. Paul Ellis / AFP

The Manchester City legend, Dennis Tueart, wanted a word.

"Coley," he said, "We have really high hopes for Daniel Sturridge. That's why he's been training with the first team. We think he can go all the way and be a big player here. Have a word and encourage him if you can."

I had already recognised Dan's potential. He was 17 and training with Manchester City's first team, not the youth players or the reserve lads.

He was not out of place, either. After two or three sessions, his talent was obvious. He was blisteringly quick, he could finish and he had a very good left foot.

He did lovely step-overs and pinged shots about with no back lift. He was a clean player, too – I do not think he received a yellow card for years.

I could see what Tueart wanted, but it was not my style to force my views on other players. Micah Richards, another Brummie, would often come for a chat, Dan less so.

He was quiet, he just wanted to learn how to improve from more experienced players around him and you didn't hear much of his Brummie accent.

Dan's respect for his elders was good to see in a young player. I decided to encourage him in low-key fashion, with a little bit of praise during training. City wanted him to feel at home and so did I.

Dan had never found a home in football. He had been at Aston Villa and then Coventry City before moving to Manchester.

Young players need to feel at home, not be bounced around from club to club, but Dan did not find a home at City. He played for the first team and had been the youngest player in an excellent youth team.

He was voted Young Player of the Year by City fans in 2008/09, but he let his contract run down because he wanted to leave. He wanted to play regular first-team football as a centre forward. He was close to that at City, but still decided to leave.

Because he was under 24, City would still receive compensation for him. He went to Chelsea – a mistake in my eyes. Chelsea played with one striker and I could not see Dan playing ahead of Didier Drogba. And he did not.

The arrival of Fernando Torres complicated things for him even more. If he was not ready to play for City every week, then he was not ready to play for a side as good as Chelsea.

He should have gone to a Bolton Wanderers, which he eventually did, but on loan from Chelsea. He did really well at Bolton, with eight goals in 12 matches. That is where he got the regular starts he had been impatient for.

He returned to Chelsea and became frustrated with the lack of opportunities, with being played out of position. The move to Liverpool two months ago already looks like being a good one. Liverpool have a wonderful heritage and massive support, but they are no longer a top-four club.

But they are perfect for Dan at this stage in his career. He's doing well, he feels wanted, he played every week and has a good foil in Luis Suarez.

Sturridge still has that blistering pace, and at Liverpool, he gets the ball to his feet, he drops his shoulder, puts the ball on his left foot and takes players on. He is wonderful to watch.

It is a great compliment that Liverpool missed him when he was injured. Sturridge has found a home at last, but for how long?

If Liverpool do as they hope and get back into the Uefa Champions League regularly, then he will stay around.

If they do not, then he's likely to be good enough to move in a couple of years. All top players want to play in the Champions League. Sturridge has a Champions League winners medal, but he was an unused sub in Munich with Chelsea last season.

He will want to be a star in Europe, not on the bench.

Daniel Sturridge has a bright future. I could have told you that from when I first saw him at 16, but to realise that potential, as he is doing, is exceptional.

Andrew Cole's column is written with the assistance of the European football correspondent Andy Mitten.


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