It seems a long time since England had some real top quality English strikers battling it out for a place in the England squad. Typically, England strikers have come in and out of the national team setup. One minute they look like the future, the next they are not quite doing it. England haven’t found a regular partner for Wayne Rooney yet, a striker that can compliment Rooney but also add to the team by weighing in with goals, but could all this be about to change?
For the first time since his rise to prominence, Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge has made it in to a Fabio Capello’s squad and a lot of people think it is fully deserved. After his goal spurt last season, a lot of people have been touting Sturridge as a striker that should have England ambitions and a player that could shakeup and freshen a stale England striker pool. Defoe, Crouch, Carroll, Bent and even Kevin Davies and Emile Heskey have never been impressive enough to give hope to Capello that they can be a long term striker partner to Wayne Rooney, but if Sturridge takes his chance, then that search could be over.
For many, Sturridge’s inclusion in the squad will come as no surprise; Sturridge has long been a name talked about since his days in Premier League youth teams and at England youth level. Sturridge has been a regular in England’s youth teams, having represented England in all age groups from under 16′s up to under 21′s. During this time, he has collectively played 34 times scoring 21 goals, a very impressive record with a goal-to-game ratio of 0.61. With this kind of record people knew if he could make a successful transition in to the adult game, then a full cap wouldn’t be far away.
Sturridge started off his footballing education at Aston Villa, but quickly moved to Coventry who couldn’t keep him long and lost him to Manchester City as a 13-year old. City only paid a £50k fee for young Sturridge which looked to be money well spent as Sturridge impressed, becoming one of the leading scorers in youth football and also winning multiple awards along the way. He signed his first pro contract with Manchester City and made 21 appearances scoring 5 goals before his contract expired and he signed for Chelsea.
Chelsea were ordered to pay £3.5m for Sturridge, plus appearance money and add-ons for internationals, so Manchester City could be set to add some money to the Christmas party pot if Sturridge does make his England bow. His record at Chelsea is worse than his record at Manchester City, having already played 31 times for Chelsea and scoring 5 goals. But it isn’t either of these records that everyone is excited about: Sturridge really hit the big time on loan at Bolton last season.
For Owen Coyle’s men, Sturridge was made number one striker as he played 12 times for Bolton, scoring 8 very important goals. This record is impressive, but Bolton were the first club that actually made him a number one striker, giving him the confidence and the platform to perform on. There was a lot of summer speculation that Bolton wanted him back, but also that a whole host of clubs were interested in Sturridge. AVB is friends with Owen Coyle and heard only good reports on Sturridge.
The arrival of AVB changed things for Sturridge at Chelsea, for AVB the slate was clean. He knew of Sturridge’s impressive stats at Bolton and it was up to Sturridge to show AVB what he could do and that is what he did. Villas-Boas said: “I think we always wanted to see him, and that’s why we decided to bring him back to our training camp and assess him and make the wise decision”.
Sturridge had an impressive pre-season hitting a few goals and standing out to AVB with his pace, technique and ability. Sturridge had a 3 match suspension to serve from last season and was ruled out of Chelsea’s opening league games which meant he had a slow start to the season, but since he has come in he has hit four goals. Confidence is key for any striker and AVB has given Sturridge all the encouragement he could need, even comparing him to one of Europe’s most in demand players: “I am not sure how his career will evolve, he has natural ability to play on the right flank, he has the opportunity to offer me the characteristics I had with Hulk when I was at Porto, he creates unpredictability”.
For Sturridge to be compared to Hulk, a €100m striker, is a big statement, but perhaps the biggest statement is regarding Sturridge’s versatility with Euro 2012 fast approaching. His ability to play a variety of positions could be key to an England side that won’t have Wayne Rooney for the opening 3 group matches of Euro 2012 and will probably have to switch formation. In any international tournament versatility is important, this is the reason a player like Phil Jones should be certain to make the plane, if his form continues. Also Sturridges physical presence could work well for England, standing at over 6ft he could be a good foil for Rooney.
There is no doubt Sturridge will get some game time either against Spain or Sweden. He has to, as one of the few unknown quantities to Fabio Capello. So many times now we have seen strikers not make the cut at international level and the lack of a good strike partner for Rooney has been a big, although unnoticed, issue. The position is there for the taking if Sturridge wants it, but it will be his biggest test as to whether he can make the position his own. Many have tried and failed, but if AVB’s comments are anything to go by, England and Chelsea have a very special player on their hands.