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Sturridge savouring his chance to shine

Tuesday, 13 November 2012 - 12:04pm IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph
The Chelsea forward has started just once this season, in the Capital One Cup win against Manchester United, with his Premier League and Champions League contributions confined to substitute appearances.

Daniel Sturridge's opportunities have been so limited this season that he will only need 73 minutes for England against Sweden in Stockholm tomorrow (Wednesday) to match his Premier League playing time.

The Chelsea forward has started just once this season, in the Capital One Cup win against Manchester United, with his Premier League and Champions League contributions confined to substitute appearances.

Yet thanks to Wayne Rooney's ankle strain and the decision to omit Jermain Defoe, Sturridge finds himself as one of only two central strikers in the squad for tomorrow's friendly. The other is his friend Danny Welbeck, also an irregular starter for his club.

Such is Roy Hodgson's challenge in assembling a world-class team from a league in which international stars dominate to the point that domestic talent is marginalised to just 30% of starters.

Sturridge's limited playing-time is thin rations on which to establish rhythm and confidence but the forward, who has three caps and can expect to play a part in Stockholm, appears to have the self-belief to overcome his frustration, thanks in part to the advice of former Chelsea team-mate Didier Drogba.

"I don't need anyone to tell me I am great or that I am fantastic, I just need to play," he said, after a morning spent training with the England squad at Manchester United's Carrington base. "I need the opportunity and that is when you get your own confidence. Didier Drogba always said to me: 'Studge, it doesn't really matter about anything as long as you believe in yourself'. And that's my main strength."

Sturridge, who modelled his game on Thierry Henry, is realistic about his chances of shining with limited opportunity. "If anyone says to you that if they don't play they are fine, it is a lie. I do not believe it is easy to not play and then switch it on like a light."

He says he has taken heart from Hodgson's "huge leap of faith" that those not starting for their clubs can still feature for their country. Sturridge is also confident that goals will follow opportunity, and is encouraged by Roberto Di Matteo's willingness to play him at centre-forward.

He craves the chance to play to what he sees as his strengths, rather than in the wide position favoured for him by Andre Villas Boas.

"It's always difficult to say I'd score 20 goals a season, but I think if any player's given a regular run then you'd hope that, given if they're playing for a top club and given opportunities to score goals, that they'd be able to do that. I do believe I'm a centre-forward and I do believe I'd be able to help the team win games."

Sturridge cannot be certain to be employed in his favoured role for England. He may share lone-striker duties with Welbeck, who can be expected to start, or could be deployed as one of Hodgson's wide options, which include Ashley Young, and the tyros Raheem Sterling and Wilfried Zaha. Like the manager, he cannot afford to be choosy.

 


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