Brendan Rodgers pleased settled Daniel Sturridge is realising potential
‘He’s 24 now and he is only just getting the chance to show consistently that he can play with the best’
Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge celebrates scoring the first against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
Daniel Sturridge is not only in the England squad, he has also been instrumental in helping Liverpool make a flying start to the season, and Brendan Rodgers believes he is benefiting from finally finding a place to call his own.
The striker has already been at two other big clubs, Manchester City and Chelsea, but only now is he getting a regular start and a feeling of belonging, and according to the Liverpool manager that is all he ever needed.
“I think any player wants to feel he belongs,” Rodgers said. “You can’t do it on your own in this game anyway. Good players will win you games but you need the overall aspect, you need the unified group. Daniel feels very much a part of a team now.
“You only need to see how hard he is working and how committed he is. Tactically he has been very good in the games. What we are asking him to do without the ball.
“The second goal that we scored last week came from an instruction to him to stay up on the shoulder and as soon as we won the ball back, he was away and in. He feels very much a part of the side and around the place he looks very happy to be here. He is proud and knows the size of the institution that he is playing for.”
In his capacity as youth coach at Chelsea, Rodgers was aware of Sturridge’s potential earlier than most. He knew he was a real talent and is not surprised to see him dovetailing so well with Luis Suarez and the other internationals in the Liverpool side.
“He definitely belongs at this level, there is no question about that,” Rodgers said. “He’s a top player. He’s 24 now and he is only just getting the chance to show consistently that he can play with the best.
“At age 14 he was the best number nine in European football, everyone could see that. He was coveted all through the youth levels but never had the chance to fully show what he could do as a senior.
“I’m happy Liverpool have given him that chance, and I think he is too. Without being arrogant about it, he knows he’s a good player. But he also knows that to be a top player you need to make the others around you better and you need to work hard. That is what he’s doing.”
Liverpool lost their last home game, against Southampton, but can return to the top of the table if they can beat Crystal Palace at Anfield today.
“We didn’t play well against Southampton and we can’t really have an excuse,” Rodgers said. “We now have a chance to make amends. Anfield is where we want to really dominate . . .
“Palace might have only just come up but they have an outstanding manager and they will be a resilient group of players on the back of a promotion. When you’ve been promoted you’ve got a camaraderie together. They will want to come and perform to get a win. For ourselves it’s a case of coming into it with a steely focus and looking to get the job done. You can’t dwell on poor results, you have to bounce back.”
Meanwhile, Kenny Dalglish is to make yet another return to Liverpool, this time as a nonexecutive director on the board in a move that will see him “contributing to strategic issues” at the club, 16 months after being sacked as manager.
Dalglish’s second spell in charge at Liverpool ended in May 2012 after an eighth-place finish in the Premier League.