Harry Kane is so in right now, isn’t he? Jamie Vardy too, with that whole rags to riches thing. He’s like a younger, better Rickie Lambert.
Wayne Rooney is never far from the headlines even when he’s injured, too, and with Danny Welbeck starting and starring in matches for Arsenal, the England forward popularity contest continues at full swing, positive and negative opinions abound.
And then there’s Daniel Sturridge.
The Liverpool man – recalled to the squad and set to start in tonight’s friendly with the Netherlands at Wembley – has long since been written off as a sicknote, a liability, a symbol of all that is wrong with the modern footballer.
With England, opinions tend to be quickly formed and then stuck to, with players mistrusted and labelled inadequate in comparison with others.
Sturridge sat on the bench throughout Saturday’s 3-2 victory in Berlin in which Kane led the line with aplomb, Vardy came on to devastating effect and Dele Alli roamed free behind them, with the trio becoming the poster boys for a new, if slightly giddy sense of optimism regarding England’s chances in France in the summer.
The absent Rooney is suffering in comparison to them, but a disappointing display from Sturridge tonight will see him join his captain in the ranks of the undesirables. England fans can be brutal at the best of times, especially before tournaments when they’ve got a sniff of success.
Making his first international start for 18 months, Sturridge can trace his year-and-a-half of almost constant injury woe back to that last England appearance, a 1-0 win over Norway in September 2014.
Back then he was flying high from a remarkable 2013/14 in which he scored 24 goals in 33 games for Liverpool, and had also notched for England at the World Cup, when Roy Hodgson’s failure to stick to a training plan that Liverpool had devised for their forward led to a thigh injury, which in turn resulted in multiple problems.
He’s started just 20 Liverpool games since, but following Jurgen Klopp’s appointment and his insistence that Sturridge be almost reconstituted in a bid to end those enforced spells on the sidelines, he’s begun to show glimpses of his old self in recent weeks.
There was the confidently-struck penalty against Manchester United, and the trademark swivel of the hips and finish against Southampton. His link-up play with Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino has been good too, as he’s reminded people of the qualities which led many to hail him as England’s best forward before Kane and Vardy gatecrashed those discussions.
Yet with Klopp doubtless desperate to flood Merseyside with Gegenpressed up Bundesliga players in the summer, and exasperation abound at Anfield over Sturridge’s frequently long layoffs, suddenly there are question marks over the forward’s future, and those question marks extend to his international career too.
Where is he in England’s striking pecking order? Behind Kane? Behind Vardy, even? Is it simply that Hodgson doesn’t trust him, and so he’s starting him against the Netherlands to try and prove a point?
Both internationally and at club level, these are critical moments in Sturridge’s career, as few outfits are going to want to touch a player with such an injury record if he is going to move on.
It is entirely in Liverpool’s best interests to keep him and build him up again – something Klopp is trying to do – because they know of his qualities.
There are very few forwards like him available to a club at the level the Reds currently are, and the same can be said of England too. If the Three Lions need a goal in the summer, then they are going to want Sturridge on the pitch.
First of all, he needs to prove that he is worth a place on that pitch, both in terms of fitness and form.
That starts at Wembley tonight, when a sighting of the old, swaggering, almost snake-like Sturridge would be most welcome.
Liverpool have been reminded of the talent they have at their disposal in recent weeks, and now it is time for England’s memory to be jogged as well.
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