DANIEL STURRIDGE has set about silencing his doubters with relish since he signed for Liverpool – but the striker didn’t have anything to prove to Didi Hamann.
The former Anfield midfielder knew exactly what the Reds were getting when they spent £12million earlier this month to secure Sturridge’s services from Chelsea.
Hamann was in the Manchester City side when Sturridge broke through at Eastlands to make his first-team debut six years ago.
Then 17, the Birmingham-born frontman was still learning his trade, but the ex-Germany international was convinced that Sturridge’s ability lived up to the hype surrounding his emergence from City’s youth ranks.
“I could see back then what a talent he was,” Hamann said.
“Everyone at City was talking about Sturridge as an exciting young player who had a big future ahead of him.
“When he came into the first team squad, he made a big impression. He had great pace, great feet and could finish.
“It was just a shame that a couple of injuries set him back. After that the situation at City changed dramatically with the club being bought out.
“Suddenly, City were spending a lot of money bringing in players and Sturridge found his game-time limited.”
Having rejected a new deal, Sturridge walked away from City when his contract expired in the summer of 2009 to join Chelsea.
His three and a half years at Stamford Bridge brought more frustration as he found himself on the fringes – 47 of his 96 appearances for the Londoners came as a substitute.
However, Hamann insists the perception that Sturridge was a flop at both City and Chelsea prior to his arrival at Anfield is deeply unfair.
“I certainly wouldn’t say he has failed at the clubs he’s been at so far,” Hamann added.
“City wanted to keep Sturridge and it was his decision to leave.
“It was a big step going to Chelsea and it took him a while to adjust. But it doesn’t help a young player when your manager is changing all the time.
“When he went to Bolton on loan two years ago and got a run of games he showed what he’s capable of by scoring a lot of goals for a struggling side.
“All the uncertainty and upheaval at Chelsea certainly didn’t help his career and sometimes you need a change of scenery.
“He could have stayed at Chelsea but he wanted a fresh challenge. He wanted to play more regularly.”
Sturridge has enjoyed a flying start to his Liverpool career – becoming the first Reds player since Ray Kennedy in 1974 to score in his first three appearances for the club.
Hamann believes last weekend’s 5-0 thrashing of Norwich City showed that the 23-year-old’s pace and power make him the perfect foil for top scorer Luis Suarez.
But the 2005 Champions League winner has been equally as impressed by the new boy’s attitude and application.
“It’s still early days but he has made a real impact,” Hamann said.
“What I like is that he has said all the right things. He clearly wants to be here and is hungry to do well.
“He appreciates the opportunity he has been given and seems determined to take it. It looks like his head and his heart are here.
“Now he has a manager in Brendan Rodgers who believes in him and the great thing for Liverpool is that Sturridge is still young. He could prove to be a tremendous signing.
“The introduction of Sturridge has given Liverpool something they’ve been lacking – that bit of pace to really stretch teams.
“It makes such a difference as everyone in the team then get’s more time on the ball. They exploited that so well against Norwich.
“Sometimes you don’t have to work at a partnership, sometimes it just clicks straightaway, and the understanding between Sturridge and Suarez for the second goal was something special.
“They compliment each other well with Suarez dropping off deeper into the space. It’s very encouraging.”
Boss Brendan Rodgers will be hoping that his new-look striking double act can help spearhead a late push for Champions League qualification.
Hamann, who will be looking to get back into coaching after he completes his UEFA Pro Licence in May, expects the seventh-placed Reds to finish the season strongly.
However, the 39-year-old says to have any hope of securing a top-four finish Rodgers’ side must take four points from their next two Premier League games.
After Sunday’s FA Cup tie with Oldham, Liverpool face a crunch week with a midweek clash at Arsenal followed by a trip to champions Manchester City.
“Both Manchester clubs and Chelsea will make up the top three so that leaves Everton, Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool to battle it out for fourth,” Hamann added.
“It will be tough to achieve that target. Liverpool will need to become a lot more consistent and that means proving they can beat the top sides.
“If we are serious about getting back into the Champions League then we have to take four points from the next two games against Arsenal and then City. A win and a draw from those matches and we’ll have a chance.
“The fact we haven’t beaten anyone in the top 10 so far this season comes down to a lack of belief and quality.
“The team has been two or three players short and too reliant on young players whose form is bound to go up and down. Plus, the more often you don’t beat the top teams, the more belief dwindles.
“But I think the arrival of Sturridge has brought more confidence into the team.
“I know it was only Norwich last weekend, but I haven’t seen the team play with that kind of belief this season.
“That’s what happens when you bring good players into a football club. It gives everyone a lift and that bodes well for the coming months.”
DIDI HAMANN will be the special guest at John Aldridge’s special Q&A night. The informal event at the Camp & Furnace in Greenland Street on Friday, February 1 offers fans the chance to grill the duo on everything Reds related.
Doors open at 7pm and tickets are on sale priced £24. To book call 0151 727-5273 or for more details go to: www.aldosays.com