Daniel Sturridge is currently training with newly-promoted, La Liga side, Real Mallorca, after a disappointing couple of years for the centre forward. A few injury ravaged seasons, combined with a four-month gambling ban which cut short a spell at Turkish club Trabzonspor, have meant that Sturridge is seeking a return to football for the new season.
It’s easy to forget, then, that Sturridge formed half of one of the most formidable strike partnerships the Premier League has seen. Sturridge partnered Luis Suarez for the 2013/14 season and the pair caused devastation for all who faced them. Both players finished in the PFA Team of the Year, with Sturridge’s career-best haul of 21 league goals second only to Suarez in the Premier League Golden Boot race. After a series of seasons hindered by injuries it is easy to forget that the man who has eight goals in 26 England appearances is still only 31-years old. However, there was one particular point in Sturridge’s early career that proved critical: his loan spell to Bolton Wanderes in 2011 as a 21-year old.
Bolton Wanderers Loan
Sturridge joined Chelsea from Manchester City in the summer of 2009 with a growing reputation, having managed five Premier League goals in 21 appearances as a teenager. His contract had expired and the youngster had secured a move to London, with Chelsea paying a small fee due to the fact Sturridge was under 24. Chelsea had eyes on ending Manchester United’s domestic dominance, after a spell of three consecutive Premier League titles for the red side of Manchester. Chelsea would go on to do this successfully in the 2009/10 season, but Sturridge would find opportunities difficult to come by at Stamford Bridge and, after one league goal in 26 appearances, would find himself sent on a six-month loan to Bolton Wanderers. While Sturridge may have been disappointed to be seen as surplus to requirements, at least temporarily, little did he know this loan would be the making of him as a Premier League striker.
After arriving at Bolton on January 31st 2011, Sturridge was soon thrown into action. Just two days after signing, Sturridge came on as a substitute at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers and made an instant impact, scoring an injury-time winner in a 1-0 victory. There is no better way to endear yourself to your new fans than a late strike to secure all three points. It was made all the more sweet by the fact that Bolton hadn’t won in their previous five league games at the time. Sturridge soon made it impossible for manager Owen Coyle not to start him, scoring in the next three games in a row.
Sturridge would manage a further four league goals before the season was out. The most notable of these goals being the opening strike in a 2-1 victory over Arsenal. With Bolton’s Premier League status secured the club had a dismal run of five consecutive defeats in a row to end the season in a reasonably comfortable 14th place. The club’s FA Cup run was no doubt a factor in this, as Bolton managed to reach the semi-finals; where they were ultimately thrashed 5-0 by eventual winners Stoke City. However, due to playing for Chelsea in the early rounds, Sturridge was unable to participate for Bolton in the competition.
While Bolton’s season fizzled out, Sturridge’s reputation had grown significantly. Eight league goals in 12 games is a remarkable ratio for a player who had managed one league goal in 18-months prior to that. The only real blemish of the loan spell was the fact that Sturridge was shown a red card in the final game of the season against his former club, Manchester City.
The following season would be Sturridge’s most successful at Chelsea, with 11 league goals in 30 appearances a sign of growing importance. However, this proved to be short-lived as he only managed seven league appearances the following season. Frustrated by being made to play out wide and a lack of game time, Sturridge made the £12 million switch to Liverpool, where he had the most successful period of his career, even scoring in a Europa League final defeat to Sevilla. There is no doubt that the six months spent at Bolton in 2011 stood him in good stead for all that followed, and it will be interesting to see if he can reinvigorate his career following a number of seasons of disappointment; both on and off the field.