Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Daniel Sturridge's emergence at Liverpool makes him crucial to England's World ... - Telegraph.co.uk

Wise family voices are all around Sturridge, including uncles Dean and Simon, former strikers of considerable repute in the Midlands and elsewhere. Dean talks to Daniel regularly, encouraging him to practise, practise, practise. This year, Sturridge's determination to make himself a more effective all-round centre-forward has led to extra training at Melwood devoted purely to his right foot. The left remains his principal weapon but an increased willingness to shoot with either foot was noticeable against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

If England do qualify for Brazil, Roy Hodgson should buy Rodgers the first Caipirinha. Liverpool's current manager brought Sturridge to Anfield for £12 million, gave him the belief, the stage and the support both on and off the field. Assiduously attentive to detail, Rodgers has overseen Sturridge's burgeoning partnership with Luis Suárez, spending time with the pair at Melwood, shaping their understanding. Some of it is instinctive. A few days after joining, Sturridge dummied for Suárez to score against Norwich. With Philippe Coutinho or Victor Moses in the hole of Rodgers' new 3-4-1-2 system, Sturridge does not need to drop off and can stay up where he belongs, darting and dribbling in and around the box.

Liverpool, and Rodgers' management, have been the making of Sturridge. On arriving at Anfield, Sturridge spoke of his delight and also his gratitude to Rodgers. He knew this was a huge chance, possibly his last chance at a heavyweight club following disappointment at City and Chelsea. He spoke of being "humbled" by the opportunity.

Everyone from Rodgers to the Sturridge family deserves credit for his development but ultimately it was the player who decided to leave Chelsea, who tackled the gaps in his game, who improved his decision-making with his final ball.

Those who have long followed Sturridge's career have seen him transformed from the slightly selfish, slightly hit-and-miss target-man for Team GB at last year's Olympics.

He is now a more authoritative presence on the pitch, his thought process apparently assisted by reading Jamie Smart's "Clarity", a book aimed at focusing the mind better. Established at Liverpool, Sturridge now needs to cement himself in England's starting line-up.

He has only one goal in six caps under three coaches, Fabio Capello, caretaker Stuart Pearce and now Hodgson. Of Sturridge's 201 minutes with England, less than an hour is competitive (21 minutes in the 1-1 home draw with Ukraine when he replaced Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and 34 minutes against San Marino in Serravalle last March when he came on for Rooney).

Rooney and Sturridge have shared a field for only 30 minutes until Sturridge limped off in the friendly with the Republic of Ireland in May. Now they form an international rescue double act. To think it was only a month ago that Sturridge was being assailed on social-media sites by England fans for withdrawing from the games against Moldova and Ukraine and for some misinterpreted comments. In an interview with Liverpool's website, Sturridge remarked that he was "more worried about putting in good performances for us [Liverpool]" than thinking about England.

He was simply making the sensible point that England is a privilege that comes to those who deliver for their clubs. Annoyed by fans' splenetic reaction, Sturridge tweeted a clarification, noting that "England is the pinnacle". Sturridge's ascent towards the pinnacle has been circuitous but he's getting there.

Nervous FA keeps Frank Lampard waiting for special 100th cap

Such is the Football Association's high anxiety surrounding Friday's huge date with Montenegro that it has postponed the presentation of a special cap to Frank Lampard to mark his recent 100th appearance for England.

The FA does not want any distractions, however upbeat. The ceremonial honours will now be done at Wembley next month, although that too could be delayed if Lampard and company are involved in a nerve-shredding play-off.

England band can rally fans to lift players at Wembley

Wembley's shallow rake dissipates noise quickly, and the corporate crowd deadens the atmosphere further, so placing even greater onus on England's hard-core support to raise the decibel level against Montenegro and Poland.

The England band may not be popular with musical purists, and some tunes are questionable ("The Great Escape" ended grimly for most), but they could perform a helpful role on Friday, rallying fans to lift the players' often brittle belief.

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