Sturridge: Bolton loan spell made me

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The Independent Football

The loan system has its critics, notably for encouraging bigger clubs to buy up and keep more players than they need, but do not expect England's Under-21 manager Stuart Pearce to be among them. Of the 40 players he selected in his provisional squad for the forthcoming European Championships, more than a dozen were out on loan from Premier League clubs, gaining invaluable playing time and, in many cases, renewed self-belief.

Daniel Sturridge is a perfect example. Stuck behind strikers Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Salomon Kalou in the pecking order at Chelsea, he found his first-team opportunities likely to be restricted even further by the arrival in January of Fernando Torres and was happy to accept a three-month move to Bolton Wanderers, where Owen Coyle promised him more of a chance.

He seized it with both feet, finding the net not only on his debut to win the game against Wolves but in the next three matches as well, joining a select band who have scored in their first four games for a Premier League club.

Sturridge finished the loan with eight goals in 12 matches, and with his confidence significantly enhanced. "When I was at Chelsea I was low on confidence because I wasn't getting the opportunities," he said after scoring for the Under-21s in a friendly against Norway on Sunday.

"Being able to play regular first-team football was all I wanted. At the start of the season I was more of a substitute for Chelsea and then in the second half of the season I was playing 90 minutes every game for Bolton. Next season it will be important for me to get those first-team opportunities. I feel it will take my game to the next level."

Before that there is the chance to further his reputation in the European tournament, probably alongside another striker in Danny Welbeck, who has experienced the same benefits in his loan from Manchester United to Sunderland. Welbeck has already made one appearance for the senior squad, against Ghana in March, and Sturridge, who has scored for England at every level from Under-16 upwards, is looking to follow suit – which would cost Chelsea an extra £1m as part of his transfer from Manchester City in 2009.

"At the last [Under-21] tournament two years ago the Germans had four or five players who went on to play in the World Cup," he said. "It just shows that if you have a good tournament with the Under-21s it can be the platform to get into the full national side. I'm sure a lot of players will have that in the backs of their minds."