When one considers his level of performance over the course of the 2013/14 season, he would have to be described as being unplayable. Sturridge has scored 44 goals in 73 Liverpool appearances – 44 goals! That is a goal every 1.6 matches, a goals-to-games ratio for Liverpool which is better than Fernando Torres’, Michael Owen’s, Robbie Fowler’s, Ian Rush’s and Kenny Dalglish’s; only matched by Luis Suarez.
It is his immense quality thats makes his abysmal injury record all the more frustrating; for himself as much as for us supporters. Since signing in January 2013, Sturridge has been injured for approximately 53% of his time at Liverpool. He was absent for 564 of his first 1060 days at Liverpool and has suffered more than 20 separate injuries. What perhaps makes matters worse is that the England international’s injuries have not been localised to one particular part of his body: he has injured his hip, leg, calf, foot, thigh, hamstring, knee and ankle ligaments. That being said, however, he has suffered no fewer than 9 injuries to his left thigh alone.
Due to this nightmarish injury record, Brendan Rodgers initiated a comprehensive review of his body, and the Liverpool FC medical team were tasked with identifying the fundamental issues with Daniel’s fitness. The former manager also developed a unique training programme for the striker; something which the England national team failed to adhere to, much to the dissatisfaction of Liverpool.
So far, Jürgen Klopp has been as unlucky with Sturridge as Rodgers was, with the attacker missing 23 of the 25 games Liverpool have played since the German’s arrival. Klopp insists that patience is required with Sturridge, but has also stated that the player must learn to manage his pain.
This was interesting comment from the boss, and perhaps raises the question of psychology with regards to Sturridge’s injury set-backs. That is not to say, at any rate, that Sturridge is over-reacting or exaggerating his injuries, but that there is perhaps a psychological element to his fitness.
This theme was discussed in Steven Gerrard’s autobiography, with the former captain explaining that he had to persuade the striker to play against Manchester United at Anfield in the 2013/14 season – a game in which he went on to score the only goal in our comfortable win, and looked sharp and aggressive for the duration.
Gerrard reflects on Sturridge’s apparent lack of belief in himself, a failure to trust his body which impacts on his attitude and mindset. I remembered these reflections as I read about Gerrard’s work with the consultant psychiatrist Professor Steve Peters – to whom Gerrard expresses a great deal of gratitude for helping him overcome his own injury worries. One does not know how much work Professor Peters has undertaken with Sturridge already, but perhaps he could have a more pro-active role in Sturridge’s rehabilitation programme, working in tandem with the club’s medical staff?
Another point of interest is that Sturridge never seems to be subbed off due to injury during a game. He has been replaced due to a lack of full match fitness, but I cannot recall a single occasion when he has limped off due to an injury acquired during play (correct me if I am wrong in the comments section). If I am correct, this would further suggest a psychological element at play; perhaps when he his pre-occupied by the immediate footballing task at hand, his attention his diverted away from his injury ‘chimp’ – (chimp is the name given by Professor Peters to the crux in a person’s brain which is responsible for feelings of irrationality, lack of belief and other psychological issues; Gerrard dedicates almost an entire chapter of his book to this so-called chimp).
It would perhaps reconcile with Sturridge’s lack of self-belief if his injury problems were compounded with a lack of belief in his own fitness. Richard Keys has reported that Sturridge supposedly turned down the iconic number 9 shirt, and when Rodgers asked him to ‘lead from the front’ and become Liverpool’s talisman, he declined due to the associated pressure. Gerrard further touches on this theme, when he compares the mentality of Luis Suarez and Sturridge in his book; as well as being a world-class player, Suarez has faith in his body and belief in himself, apparently hardly ever needing so much as a post-match massage during his time at Liverpool.
This is in no way a criticism of Sturridge, but merely a thought as to what could be contributing to his injury nightmare. A psychological element could be at play, and if this is the case, Liverpool should direct their attention to it. At the end of the day, his situation will frustrate himself more than any supporter. Lets hope the club help the player overcome any physical or psychological defects at work and get Sturridge back to full fitness, and stabilise his conditions. Imagine a fully-fit and fully-confident Daniel Sturridge playing every week; Liverpool’s best ever striker in the making? I belief he has the potential – he should too.
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