Criticism of Daniel Sturridge unfair says Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers

Liverpool boos allays fears about £12m striker's attitude

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has dismissed any doubts over the attitude of Daniel Sturridge as the striker prepares to make his Anfield debut.

The 23-year-old is at his third big club in less than four years after leaving Manchester City in 2009 to play only 96 matches, almost half as substitute, for Chelsea.

Rumours persisted about Sturridge's personality and suitability for the Premier League - indeed Rodgers was interested in signing him in August but reportedly wanted to take him on loan first.

But his £12million move to Merseyside could not have got off to a better start with goals in his first two appearances, one in the FA Cup victory at Mansfield and the other in the defeat to Manchester United last weekend.

He has certainly made an impact early, scoring seven minutes into the cup tie and 12 minutes after coming on at half-time at Old Trafford.

And Rodgers was keen to defend his new signing against the whispering campaign which has accompanied his short career so far.

"It has been very unfair, I have to say" said the Reds boss.

"I remember being at Chelsea and I'd heard all these things about Nicolas Anelka being an awkward player and I found him one of the nicest guys I ever met in football.

"Sometimes when you are quiet and you focus on yourself you can be criticised for being awkward, but I don't think that is the case with Daniel at all.

"I was aware of him beforehand and I think any frustrations and disappointments he's had were purely down to the basis he wasn't playing or getting an opportunity.

"I can understand that. He went (to Chelsea) as a 20-year-old and it was always going to be difficult for him to play.

"But he has mixed well here and is very hungry to learn. It is going to take time for him to feel at ease and comfortable.

"This will be his first time playing at Anfield and that is a real special feeling."

Much has been made of how Sturridge will fit into a formation which has had Luis Suarez as its spearhead and has brought the Uruguay international 19 goals this season.

But the pair linked well, along with Fabio Borini when he came on last weekend, in a fluid forward line.

And Rodgers has no doubts of Sturridge's ability to continue banging in the goals or his success in partnering Suarez.

"Top players can play with each other and I'm really confident Daniel will flourish in his time here," he added.

"That relationship will take a bit of time to be totally co-ordinated but I've seen in training, with them working together and with other players, the balance is right.

"Daniel came in here and the spotlight was on him because everyone knew we needed someone up there to help Luis and get goals.

"With his pace and power you have a real feeling he can get a goal.

"It's been difficult and perhaps frustrating for him because he hasn't been at the top level of his fitness yet, which is why we had to put him on the bench and bring him into the game (against United).

"At Old Trafford, his performance typified the reason we brought him in.

"It was a terrific shot by Steven Gerrard, a good save by David de Gea and he's in there, in the box looking for a goal.

"There are not many players who would have got to that loose ball.

"He's very close [to full fitness] and working very hard.

"When you have good players like Daniel, Luis and Steven and the other players around them, it makes things really exciting."

Norwich, having been on the end of back-to-back Suarez hat-tricks in successive league games, are tomorrow's visitors as Liverpool look to continue their improving home form.

Rodgers' side have scored seven goals and kept two clean sheets against Fulham and Sunderland at Anfield.

And after defeat at United, the manager is keen for them to return to winning ways.

"We've had some terrific performances so far this season but consistency has been our biggest downfall," he said.

"I believe the group will be as good as any team in this league but we have to be consistent and be able to not play well and win.

"This season we've normally played well and won games; we've also performed well and not got something from the games.

"At times, we're going to have to not play well and be able to win."

PA

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