Belfast Telegraph

Sturridge is relishing the fight for key England role

By Mark Ogden

Daniel Sturridge's eyes narrowed into a fixed stare when it was suggested that, to help England achieve success at Euro 2016, he would have to be a 'good tourist' if Roy Hodgson chose to overlook the Liverpool forward for other options in France.

Two years ago in Brazil, Sturridge was the main man, the player whose goalscoring form prompted Hodgson to shift Wayne Rooney into a wide role to allow the 26-year-old to play through the middle, but as England prepare to open their Group B campaign against Russia this weekend, he is fourth-choice - at best - behind Rooney, Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy.

While that Sturridge stare hints at a moodiness and sense of self-importance, his desire to play in France has not been outweighed by his readiness to survey the bigger picture and he insists that all egos have been checked in before departure for the tournament.

"I am not here for a holiday," Sturridge said. "When you go into a tournament like this, of course I want to play. Nobody wants to sit on the bench.

"I want to play, but it's down to the manager to choose his team and I have to understand that. If he chooses somebody else, that's his decision. I'm working tirelessly on the training pitch to ensure I'm in the team.

"If he doesn't select me, the next day I will be on the training field to ensure I am for the next game. We can't win this thing if there are egos or problems in the camp. It's about us being a team."

Sturridge's injury-hit career has yielded just 18 caps, with five goals along the way, and his fitness concerns cast a shadow over his participation in France due to a persistent calf problem.

The emergence of Manchester United youngster Marcus Rashford also threatened to leave Sturridge back home until Hodgson pursued a bold path by selecting five forwards.

Sturridge insists, however, that he never doubted his prospects of travelling to France.

"It was never touch and go from my side or from the manager's side in terms of my fitness," Sturridge said. "They knew my situation before I arrived.

"I played in the Europa League final and I had some tension in my calf. It was going to be gone five to six days after I arrived.

"I trained on Monday and I was fine, but I am not the type of person to worry. It is the manager's decision and if I hadn't made the squad, I would have wished the boys the best of luck.

"As for Marcus, he is a good player. He has come on the scene and he has no fear and he is an exciting talent."

Images of Sturridge appearing to focus on his mobile phone while watching Rashford score against Australia did little to dispel the notion of the player being one who puts himself first, but he insists that incident was misconstrued.

"It was my charity event - The Sturridge Foundation - my first annual charity event in Birmingham that night," Sturridge said "My family had put the event on and they were texting me the whole night.

"But of course I was watching the game. It's important to watch my team-mates play, but if I receive a text about my charity event, I'm going to reply."

Having endured the misery of a group exit at the last World Cup, Sturridge knows the downsides of playing for England.

But he insists that there is no burden attached to representing his country.

"We understand the weight when you wear the three lions," Sturridge said. "It's not a burden, but there is a lot expected so we go out there to give the fans something to celebrate."

Belfast Telegraph