England v Montenegro: Can Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge cut it in England's hour of need?

Striker has always been super-confident in his own ability and is showing it at club level. But can he cut it in England's hour of need?

Even Steven Gerrard had to admit that when Daniel Sturridge signed for Liverpool in January he had heard the stories about the baggage that came with the richly talented young footballer. "Since he came to Liverpool I have been surprised with the things I'd read," Gerrard said. "He's been absolutely no problem."

ENGLAND v MONTENEGRO: Click here to follow the latest news and score - LIVE

The Sturridge conundrum has existed ever since he emerged in the youth teams at Manchester City around 10 years ago, then just the latest player to roll off that club's impressive production line. A teenage prodigy who started at Coventry City, he starred in the Manchester City team that beat Manchester United in the final of the Nike World Premier Cup in 2004. Two years later he reached the FA Youth Cup final with City, losing to Liverpool. By then he was the standout player of his teenage generation.

English football has been waiting a long time for Sturridge to make good on a prodigious, if occasionally unreliable, talent. After 10 career-changing months at Liverpool, you get the feeling that at Wembley against Montenegro and against Poland on Tuesday could be the occasions when Sturridge comes of age in international football

Roy Hodgson would not say outright that the 24-year-old will start in the first of the two remaining World Cup qualifiers, but he laid out a very compelling case for picking the player. This is, after all, the Premier League's in-form striker, who is playing with the kind of confidence that England managers can scarcely afford to overlook.

When Chelsea's hierarchy decided to sell Sturridge in January they knew that they were taking a risk in letting go an undoubted talent, and an Englishman who, as a home-grown player, was very useful in their Champions League squad lists. But Sturridge's time at Chelsea seemed to have run its course and it was felt that the longer he stayed in west London, underused and none-too-happy about it, the worse the situation would become.

Since joining Liverpool, he has been one of the standout players of 2013. Under Brendan Rodgers, the striker has scored 19 goals in 25 games, as well as his first international goal against San Marino. There was a hat-trick away at Craven Cottage in May. The return of Luis Suarez to the Liverpool side has not slowed his scoring either, with goals at Sunderland and then at home to Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Gerrard said that Sturridge had reacted well to being placed at the heart of the Liverpool team, something he never benefited from at Chelsea. "He [Sturridge] has needed a manager who was prepared to build a team around him, put him as a main striker, the No 9, and we've seen nothing but quality in training and in games," Gerrard said.

"He's even better than I thought he was. I'd seen all his games at Chelsea and a few at City where I'd seen bits and flashes, but his consistency has been brilliant at Liverpool. He's different, razor-sharp, great technique and can score any kind of goal.

"You saw the finish against Crystal Palace at the weekend, some finish from a tight angle. It's all about him being available and fit. If he is, I think he'll do a lot of damage for both club and country. He's confident but not arrogant or flash. He has a lot of belief in his own ability, and I don't blame him for that because he has it."

The confidence was certainly there when Sturridge first arrived at Chelsea just over four years ago, declaring that he was there to challenge the likes of Didier Drogba for a place in the team. He had defiantly run down his contract at City and benefited significantly from that decision when it came to his Chelsea contract. There was an unblinking belief then in his own ability – a belief which jarred at times for one who had so far to go – but now he is finally making good on those promises.

These days, Sturridge does a good deal less talking to the press. His only public words this week have been an interview with the Football Association's in-house media, largely about his strong Christian beliefs and there has been precious little insight from him into the factors that have changed his career in the last few months.

As ever with new strikers in the England team, much depends on how he combines with Wayne Rooney. Rooney, along with Gerrard, remains the permanent fixture who will play whenever he is fit. At Chelsea, Sturridge played more than people give him credit for, 96 appearances, albeit 47 of them as a substitute. His route was blocked by the signing of Fernando Torres, who arrived six months after Sturridge. More often than not the complaint from Sturridge was that when he did start games, it was not as a central striker.

The feeling is that Rooney will operate behind Sturridge in the No 10 role, giving the man from Liverpool the platform to perform as he has done at his club. While Hodgson would not confirm where he anticipated deploying his strikers he certainly suggested that neither of them would be co-opted into a job out on the wing.

"I don't need to play them wide because I have so many other players," Hodgson said. "I try and play players where they're at their best for their club sides. I selected Sturridge and Rooney as strikers. It is different at club level, where you might have injuries. But I have 23 players here and have balanced it out from the start to have players in all positions.

"They're both very good players. They're both all-round players, can receive balls with their back to goal, can turn and run with the ball, beat people, and can score with both feet or headers. They're two excellent, modern-day front players who can perform all the roles you want from the front players."

It is tempting to say that games like these are the kind of matches that Sturridge always envisaged himself playing in, in the days when he grumbled at the lack of opportunities at Chelsea. There is no shortage of confidence in this young man who has been happy to announce himself in the past as the real deal. All that remains to be done now is for him to step on to the stage and prove that to be the case.

Sport
Lionel Messi pictured after reaching the final
world cup 2014
Sport
Lionel Messi and Thomas Muller have shone brightest for Argentina and Germany respectively on their way to the World Cup final
Sport
Brazilian fans watch the match for third place between Brazil and Netherlands
Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: Dutch pile on the misery in third place playoff
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?