x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Daniel Sturridge's impressive start for Bolton

Daniel Sturridge has not stopped scoring since joining Bolton Wanderers on loan from Chelsea, which is embarassing for the champions as their strikers are out of form.

Daniel Sturridge has made an immediate impact for Bolton Wanderers with three goals from his first three games. Jon Super / AP Photo
Daniel Sturridge has made an immediate impact for Bolton Wanderers with three goals from his first three games. Jon Super / AP Photo

When a club possesses Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka, it seems unusual that anyone else is their in-form striker. When he has been loaned out, it borders on the embarrassing.

Yet while Chelsea have failed to score in their last two games, their perennial substitute is proving more prolific. The British record transfer of Torres pushed Daniel Sturridge down the pecking order and he promptly decamped for the Reebok Stadium.

Such is football's knock-on effect. It would be an exaggeration to say that Chelsea's loss is Bolton Wanderers' gain - the 21-year-old only started two of his 26 league games for the defending champions - but Wanderers are certainly benefitting from borrowing him.

Sturridge has become the first Bolton player since Michael Ricketts in 2001 to score in three successive Premier League games. It is all the more notable as they are his only appearances for the club; a debut winner as a substitute against Wolverhampton Wanderers was followed by strikes against Tottenham Hotspur and Everton while he was ineligible for last night's FA Cup tie at Wigan Athletic.

In the process, he has provided vignettes of his ability. He anticipated Ronald Zubar's injury-time back-pass a fortnight ago, sweeping the ball past Wayne Hennessey, the Wolves goalkeeper, with assurance.

That was a right-footed goal; the next two came with his preferred left, a skimming 20-yard shot eluding the grasp of Tottenham's Heurelho Gomes and, most impressively, the half-volley struck with the outside of his foot against Everton. Combining technical proficiency with power and accuracy, it led Owen Coyle, his new manager, to say: "Such a talented young player."

A former forward himself, Coyle added: "In my opinion he is one of the best young strikers in the country and I am sure he can go on and have a big impact in the time he spends with us."

Indeed, Sturridge has scored for England at every age group from Under 16 to Under 21. Speed is one of his more obvious qualities, along with an ability to shimmy past a defender but, the Bolton manager insists, his attitude is more significant.

"The thing I love about him is his real desire to play," he said. "It would have been very easy for Daniel Sturridge to stay at Chelsea and come off the bench with 10 or 15 minutes remaining. But he wants to come and he wants to improve himself."

Gary Cahill, the Bolton defender, concurs. "He has still got things to learn but as a centre-back, if you give him time on the ball, he'll be past you before you know it. He's got a great burst of pace over four or five yards and no defender wants to play against that. He's a young player with unbelievable ability. He's scored three in three for us and you can see his confidence is high."

Indeed, the proof came in an audacious, impudent back-heel to set Stuart Holden up for a goal that, the ball having gone out of play before Sturridge's display of skill, was disallowed against Everton. "The manager has told me to dribble and he has given me licence to show what I can do," the striker said.

He is enhancing Bolton's reputation for polishing up young talent. Sturridge is following in the path trodden by Arsenal's Jack Wilshere 12 months before him. The England international's first taste of regular football came at the Reebok Stadium

"The belief I have in [Sturridge] as a player is the same belief I had in Jack Wilshere," Coyle said. "These young players are craving a platform to play. There's no shame in not being in the starting 11 at Chelsea or Arsenal. What Daniel has to do is to continue that improvement."

The product of a footballing family, his uncles Dean and Simon were both strikers who number Birmingham City, Stoke City, Derby County and Wolves among their former clubs. Born in Birmingham, Daniel was on the books of Aston Villa and Coventry but came through the youth ranks at Manchester City. When his contract expired in 2009, he opted to join Chelsea, a tribunal ruling that an initial fee of £3.5 million (Dh20.65m) could rise to £6.5m.

Forever on the bench there, he has forced his way into the Bolton side, with Johan Elmander moving to the right wing. It is, he insists, a short-term stint; a player who rarely seems to lack confidence is intent on returning to Stamford Bridge.

However, Cahill argued, appearances can be deceptive: "He's a real nice lad, down to earth, gets his head down, works hard and it's no coincidence when you do that, the rewards come." Bolton's hope is that Sturridge can be prised from Chelsea for the long term so they will be rewarded for the long term. Carry on at this rate, however, and it looks unlikely.

 

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