//Interview with Daniel Sturridge
ANDY HEATON and MARTIN FITZGERALD sat down for a candid chat with Liverpool’s No.15 at Melwood
IT’S not often that I get excited about anything these days, especially when it comes to interviewing footballers. As the game has developed over the years, so has ‘brand protection’ – even to the point of Academy players being sent for media training. More often than not, it’s for the benefit of the club. But players, wary of a twisted quote being splashed across a back page, happily toe the line.
Cliché after cliché leads to interviews that could be written before a tape recorder is turned on or a word uttered. And the number of professional footballers brave, articulate and at ease with themselves enough to speak openly and honestly about the game are few and far between. Luckily, Daniel Sturridge is one of them.
ANDY HEATON: The Derby then, incredible – how do you feel?
DANIEL STURRIDGE: Everyone is absolutely delighted with it. To have bragging rights in the city for all the fans; everyone is delighted with the performance we put in.
AH: The second goal – you seemed to have an age to get it down. When you saw the ball coming over, did you have a picture in your mind of what you wanted to do? The awareness was amazing, you had a little glance and kept your eye on the ball – did you know as soon as you hit it that it was going in?
DS: I didn’t, to be honest, it was quite strange, when I saw Kolo play the ball, I immediately thought, ‘Am I offside?’ because I wasn’t too sure as I was watching where the ball was and then I saw the ref, they must have appealed, because I saw the ref giving it one of them ‘carry on’ gestures, so I carried on and had a little peek at the keeper and I knew he (Tim Howard) was on his way, but it’s one of them, sometimes it works out for you and other times you put it over.
I thought it was going to veer out to the right and I was like, ‘Ahh, no!’ but it carried on in and I was buzzing.
MARTIN FITZGERALD: That kind of finish is always one where it misses and the crowd are all like, ‘Ooooh’ – but with you it always seems to go in.
AH: Everyone loves a lob! I remember Andrea Dossena scoring one when we beat Man United 4-1 at Old Trafford a couple of years ago and it just seemed to take a year to go in.
DS: Yeah, it’s the timing, and everyone is like, ‘Is it going to go in? Is it going in or not?’ It just took so long, but yeah, good times!
AH: That’s your third goal against Everton and your second decisive contribution. Obviously you scored the late equaliser at Goodison. Both are massive games – do you feel the pressure of big games? Do they bring the best out of you, or is it just like any other game?
DS: To be honest with you, the game is hugely important for the fans. And even though as a player I’m not from Liverpool, and I don’t know what it feels like for the fans in terms of the tension, I can relate to it from what I’ve experienced where I’m from. But for me, going into games, I’m always relaxed regardless of the opposition, so it was just a case of going out there and enjoying myself.
But once you get out and you’re warming up, you can see the fans – and in the week of the game, the Derby, everyone is talking it up – and you realise what an occasion it is. But yeah, for me, I’ve always been one to relax in regards to that and don’t pay much mind to the pressure.
MF: Have you ever had as much fun playing football as you are now? You strike me as someone who goes out on the pitch with a smile on his face?
DS: I enjoy it so much, I love the game. I’ve always enjoyed it and will always continue to enjoy. It doesn’t matter what circumstances I’m in or where I am in the world, I’ve always enjoyed from a young age to play football. I’ve always had a ball with me. So for me, I’m living my dream and I can’t ask for any more.
MF: We saw that down at Bournemouth. Quite a few times you were having a laugh with the fans during the game and they were singing your name, and I think more than most players you express that joy. It’s great to see that as a fan who travels up and down the country.
DS: It’s important for me. I was a fan – I was exactly the same as every fan who sits in the crowd. I was a kid who wanted autographs from all the best players. Every player that I saw, I wanted a photo with him. When my Uncle (Dean Sturridge) was playing for Derby, I’d be in the players’ lounge hoping the players would come in. And I’d hope a player would come in so I could ask for his autograph, and some guys snubbed me and wouldn’t sign stuff, and I’ll always remember it. I remember the individuals to this day. I’m not going to say any names, but you remember, as a kid growing up, it’s huge; it was a huge part of my childhood, being able to watch a live game and having the opportunity that a lot of other people didn’t have to meet players and get an autograph or a photo.
For me, I think it’s huge – it’s nothing for me to do [to sign an autograph or pose for a photo], and I feel like it’s a huge part of the game. The fans are the reason we’re here.
AH: And it’s something that kids will remember.
DS: Exactly. I remember it from when I was a kid. Even the adults, you relate. It’s a Liverpool family, and I don’t use that word lightly. It is a family here – it’s not about any individual or any of the staff, it’s a family.
AH: Talking of family, your family – obviously you’ve got the box at Anfield, but we always see your family at the away games, too. Is that important to you?
DS: Yeah, of course, it’s massively important. My cousin and my brother are always there and I always look out for them in the crowd before the away games and try to find where they are. For me, it’s important to have everybody’s support and everybody’s backing. It means a lot to me to have the fans on my side. I just do my best to put a smile on their faces and make them happy.
In football, it can be glamorised a lot in terms of people think they are better than someone else, but we’re all the same – everybody is the same. A fan is the same as me. Just because you pay to watch me play doesn’t mean that I’m a star. I’ve been in the position of a fan – I am a fan. I love the banter, I love the vibe and I love everything about playing the game.
MF: I think it’s really great that you can see your brother and your cousin in with the fans when they could quite easily get seats in some box or something, but they are there being fans – you should see them celebrate when you score. They could be somewhere else, but they are there in amongst it.
DS: That’s what it’s about – we’re just normal people. It’s the way it should be.
AH: Part of the reason we wanted to speak to you is because you have come across in previous interviews as grounded, humble and normal. But I have to ask: do you feel, as a player and a person, that there is a misconception about you?
You are known just as a goalscorer when you’ve shown you’ve got a bit of flair and vision – some of your assists have been ridiculous – but do you think you get enough credit for that side of your game or do you get the feeling that if it was A N Other player the Press would be raving about it?
Also as a person there is maybe a misconception that you are a bit arrogant as it’s something that has been tossed around before?
DS: The arrogant thing annoys me most – it annoys me a lot. But it’s life, isn’t it? I think everyone has a perception, like I have perceptions of people I don’t know. I think it maybe comes from how relaxed I am on the pitch. People can’t figure people out. If someone is straight faced, or they’re not always smiling or if they ARE smiling, people think, ‘I don’t like that guy because he’s like that’. They automatically have an opinion of someone of how they are; their body language or whatever. I’ve always been a chilled guy; living life, enjoying life, always smiling, always bantering; everyone who has met all says the same. I’ve never had any problems or any beef with anybody or anything like that.
People have perceptions of people and that’s life. I can only show the people I meet what I am as a person. I don’t do things for people or make people do things for me in return. I don’t do a favour for someone and then expect something in return – I do things out the good of my heart.
If people’s perception of me is that I’m arrogant, then that’s fine. Until they meet me, they can have that perception. But everybody that knows me knows I’m far from that.
On the field, some people don’t get credit, some people do – that’s the way it is. I would say that, in terms of putting people in, unless the player takes the opportunity, you never get the credit for giving them the chance.
I do set up chances for people and I do enjoy giving assists and being part of the team, but in some cases maybe you don’t get the credit you deserve. But that’s life, again. I don’t mind.
MF: In terms of personal perception, do you think it helps that you can go on social media and just be yourself?
DS: Yeah, I think. To be honest, another thing, when I was at Chelsea I wasn’t myself. I wasn’t me as a person in terms of how open I am – I was in my shell a lot. It’s hard to explain, but I was never myself in interviews. I always felt like I wasn’t relaxed there – I always felt that I couldn’t be myself and was always on edge.
I couldn’t be myself in terms of everything. When I came here I made the point to myself, ‘You know what, Daniel, just be yourself’ and if people take it well, then good. In interviews when I’m bantering – that’s just me, I like to laugh and joke, I don’t like to be serious. A lot of people are extremely serious and maybe in the past I’ve tried to be serious and be someone that I wasn’t. I’m just a guy who likes to enjoy and be happy and not worried about the pressure of doing an interview right or being a certain way. I just thought it was right when I moved to Liverpool to be myself.
MF: Like when you got out the car and danced with that fan? I think a lot of people thought then: ‘He’s just a normal guy’.
DS: Yeah, he was dancing outside the car and I thought, ‘Y’know, let’s have it! His mate was saying he was better than me, so I thought, let’s have it now and it ended up on the Internet. I didn’t think it would go up on there, I was just having a bit of fun with the guy but these days with Twitter and Instagram these things get out.
MF: But I think that’s really good because people can see you for yourself.
AH: Especially in this day and age where everything is so sterile, you know yourself with your profile everything is, ‘don’t say this’, ‘don’t say that’, ‘read off this script’. Do you feel you are allowed to be yourself at the club and in the city – do you feel at home here?
DS: I do yeah, I feel like I’m relaxed and I don’t have any stresses. I’m at home and I’m chilling, just doing my thing and when I come to work, I’m happy, I’m bantering, I’m always loud and laughing and joking.
MF: Who is the funniest player at the club?
DS: Who makes me laugh? Who would I say? There’s too many! The thing is, I’d say I’m one of the players who would be bantering with Cissokho in French and I don’t speak French! Or I’ll be speaking to Philippe [Coutinho] in Portuguese and I don’t speak Portuguese, you know, things like that? I like to be part of everything and make everyone feel comfortable.
AH: But when it’s business it’s business?
DS: That’s true. Before the Everton game, if you ask the boys, I was dancing, laughing and joking. But 15 minutes before we went out, I was straight faced and I was on it because there comes a time when the switch just flicks and it’s time to get serious. But that’s me. I can be laughing and joking and then serious at the click of finger because you have to be ready. When it’s game time, it’s game time. You have to be ready.
AH: We were talking about misconceptions earlier: Luis Suarez, do you feel that he still gets a hard ride from the Press and how does it feel playing with him?
DS: I don’t know if he does get a hard ride to be fair, I wouldn’t say that he gets as difficult a time as he’s had in the past. I think now he’s getting the credit on the field for his game and has people talking about him in a certain way and maybe sometimes his previous history has overridden that in terms of maybe he’d be doing really well but have a moment. But people have moments in life, they have moments they lose it or they’re upset and they show it and that’s football. But I enjoy playing with him, I think he does a lot for the team.
Look at Stevie G, he’s the captain, an England and Liverpool legend, his presence at this club will live on for the rest of his life given what he’s done and achieved for the club. For me, I could never talk higher about a certain individual – he’s done so much for me on a personal level since I’ve joined the club. He’s been a massive help and made it really easy to settle in at the club and to play my game, express myself and believe in myself. A lot of people don’t realise how important that mental side of the game is – it’s so big, as important as talent and hard work.
AH: Is the mental side of the game what separates the top players from the rest?
DS: I think so. I think mentally you have to be very strong. Of course tactics, talent and technique – everything is crucial. Unless you can kick a ball and work hard and have technique, all of these things are a huge part of your job. But the mental side is just as big as the other things.
AH: You mentioned Chelsea earlier, about how you were not yourself, that there was a nervousness thing, and an edge – was that a confidence thing? Did you ever think that you wouldn’t make it?
DS: No, I always thought I’d make it but I was never sure if I’d play as a striker because people didn’t believe in me. I was often asked to play in a different position and to do a job for the team but having been a striker and then being asked to just flick a switch and play on the wing was always going to be difficult because mentally you’re going to play the way you always have and I play on instinct.
I think that now I’m just playing the way that I did as a kid but I’d never had the chance to do that. When I was playing as a winger at Chelsea I was over-thinking it because I wasn’t used to doing it. It’s about that split second when you have to decide whether you do this or do that whereas now I’m just playing on instinct. I’m just doing the natural thing, playing my natural game and doing things off the cuff.
Some of the goals that I have scored have just been something that happens. Like the goal against Aston Villa, it happened so fast that I had to watch a video of it afterwards to see what I’d done. It’s strange, a lot of things that have happened in games I look back and have to ask myself what actually happened because it’s all happened so fast. You do things, and you carry on and then you look back and you think, ‘Wow, that was decent!’.
MF: The one that sticks out for me is your goal against West Brom at home. I think we were 3-1 up and you pick up the ball in that bit of space and could have been forgiven for just closing your eyes, hitting it and hoping for the best. But it seemed like you felt no pressure on yourself at all – and the keeper wasn’t even off his line.
DS: It was weird, it just seemed at the time that it was the right thing to do. But when I went back to the box after the game, I was speaking to my Dad and uncles and they were saying, ‘We were saying you should pass it, we didn’t think it was never on, what were you thinking?’ At the time, I thought he [Ben Foster, the West Brom goalkeeper] was well off his line. I thought there was definitely a lot of room for me to get the ball in that spot and that was what was in my head – that he was off his line and if I get the angle right… Against Bournemouth it was the same, I’ve got it, the angle was wrong against Bournemouth, but it’s those little inches. If I’d got the ball to the right a little bit more and slowed it a little bit more… Because Hendo’s pass played first time and I thought the ball was going to skid a bit more which maybe would’ve let me hit it the way I wanted. But because it stopped a little bit I had to open my body up and hit it a little bit straight.
But in the West Brom game it was just one of those situations that you hope you’re going to score and you’ve got it under control – you know what you want to do, but when it actually happens and goes in, it’s like, ‘wow’ – and as you said everybody loves a lob!
Rounding a keeper is nice, but when you chip the keeper? Keepers hate it. When I’ve played for previous clubs, and even now, when you chip the keeper, they grab the ball and kick it as far as they can or blast it at you, they’re like, ‘ARRRRGGH!’.
Messi has done that countless times – they’re magicians, I’m not a magician. But these guys, even Theo Walcott, Carlos Vela, you look at their goals, of lot of them are like that. Carlos Vela is probably one of the best I’ve seen at chipping keepers.
AH: Away from the football, I’ve heard you fancy yourself as a bit of a chef?
DS: No, who was that, who said that? Well, I can do a little bit, my Mum is more of the chef – I can cook, not amazing, but I can cook.
The difference between a cook and a chef is that they do things that are amazing. I’m one of those guys that, maybe one in five it’ll be amazing, where I’m surprised myself how good it was. But, those other four times? It’s good, but I’m not Michelin Star standard or anywhere near that.
AH: Ok then, so someone is coming round to yours and you’re trying to impress – what’s your signature?
DS: What are we talking? Are we talking female? Are we talking male?
AH: Whatever you want?
DS: It depends really, because, first and foremost you have to take into account what the person likes. If I was doing something I’d probably do, I dunno, I like lamb or jerk lamb. My Mum does that really nice. Or jerk chicken, one of those two. It’s not really jerk chicken – my Mum has got a sauce, she makes her own sauce and I put that on. It’s not really jerk sauce but it’s an amazing sauce.
Basically, I’d be doing my Mum’s chicken and that’s something that the girls would like, what the guys would like and for friends and family and whatever – that’s what I’d do.
AH: You’re also into your video games and recently did the Call Of Duty promo. Are you really that good?
DS: My team won didn’t it? I’m not going to pipe up and say I’m the best. There is a guy called Trout – Chris Trout – he’s on my team and he’s some kind of Call Of Duty guru. I also had two Liverpool fans on my team and we got the job done. There was six in total including my two cousins.
Who’s to say I’m not a good player? I average about 15 kills a game – a very good player will get 30 kills. I’m not top level, I don’t get 30 kills every game but I pop in with the odd 30 every now and again when the team need it and you need to step forward and take care of it. Regularly though, I’m 10 to 15.
AH: I got fed up getting beat by a nine-year-old from Arkansas…
DS: Man, its amazing actually how, even when I was younger I had video games, but when you’re younger you’re so much better. I’ve got a PS4 and an Xbox One and I don’t play regular but when I was a kid I’d be playing five-six hours regular. But I do like to get online. I play NBA, I play some football games and Call Of Duty – it’s more when you’re bored and with time to kill.
AH: You’re also into your clobber, and as you know, it’s a very distinct thing in Liverpool.
DS: Yeah, of course it is
AH: Are you aware of how many different words there are for trainers in Liverpool?
DS: How many what?
AH: How many different words?
DS: I’ve only heard ‘trainees’ – that’s it.
AH: Trabs, wheels, webs…
DS: Nothing, I’ve heard nothing! How many are there?
AH: Ask Carragher next time he’s in – he’ll tell you! There are trabs, trainees, wheels, webs…
DS: Why wheels?
AH: I don’t make the rules, just thought you’d like a little local knowledge!
DS: You need that. I did an interview for LFC.TV in Scouse one time – I can do it quite well. Let me tell this story. I’m doing this interview and the girl couldn’t stop laughing, and I was being deadly serious but she couldn’t stop laughing and couldn’t take me seriously. I was saying [In a Scouse accent] “Yeah, so obviously, we’ve gone out there and done me bit for the boys.” And she was saying: “I can’t do this, I can’t take you seriously!” So I said to her, ‘You need to get your act together!’.
Anyway, I did this interview and she was making me laugh! She should have just let me do it, she put me off when I was in the mode. I was being deadly serious, I did it twice and it got to the point where I just ended up doing it normal. I do like the accent though.
AH: But seriously, on the style thing, I know you are genuinely into it. What do you make of Liverpool?
DS: To be fair, it’s crazy how different areas all dress differently, with all the different cultures. When I was in London you had east London, west London… In Birmingham everyone has got their own thing and their own wave. Liverpool and Manchester both have their own style.
In Liverpool everyone is quite smart. It’s either smart or the tracksuits. It’s one of the two with nothing in between – it’s very rare you see people in the middle normally dressed.
MF: What are your favourite styles and brands?
DS: It ranges to be fair. I don’t have anything specific people that I’d say. I do like to shop, I have stocked quite a lot, not this year. From the end of last year I’ve stopped, I don’t really get the time to shop any more, I used to but not so much any more. I’ve got too many clothes.
It’s a nice problem to have but I’m at the stage now, if I’m buying clothes then I need to wear them. I’ve got stuff I’ve not worn and I’m like, you know what, I need to stop spending my money. It’s getting to that point where I need to be in business mode and focusing on how I’m going to start making my own clothes.
We spend so much money on clothes and stuff and I’ve been thinking about it. I think Kanye West has spent $10million on clothes and maybe that’s not what I want to do.
AH: Ok, to wrap up, how far can this Liverpool side go?
DS: It can go as far as we want to go, I think, as long as we work hard as a team and we go out there and do what we do best – just like how we performed in the Everton game – we can go as far as we want to.