Sturridge all business ahead of Australia move

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The 32-year-old striker has been making headlines Down Under since agreeing to join Glory for the 2021/22 A-League Men season and says that he is excited about the new challenge.

“I’m not there for a holiday, I’m there to play football, I’m there to perform to the best of my ability,” he told the media on Friday.

“Outside of the game, of course it’s nice to have things to do and I’ve heard great things about the city but that being said, it’s a football decision for me.”

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The former Chelsea and Liverpool man played his last game of football for Turkish giants Trabzonspor in March 2020, but his contract was terminated when he received four-month ban for breaching gambling regulations.

Sturridge, who has 26 England caps to his name, spent the last few months training with La Liga side Real Mallorca and there has been no shortage of offers for his services, however none piqued his interest as much as Glory’s.

“I had a lot of opportunities and a lot of offers over the last 19 months, but I didn’t feel like any of them were the right fit, so we made the decision to come to Perth,” he explained.

Asked if his love for the game had waned at any point during his spell on the sideline, Sturridge insisted that would never be the case.

“This is a game I’ve enjoyed and loved playing since I was in my front garden at home as a three, four-year-old kicking a ball around.,” he said.

“Even when I’m old and grey I’ll still be playing keepy-uppys with my grandkids or whatever it may be. This beautiful game will remain with me forever, this is what I was born to do.”

The opportunity to make a move for Sturridge came about quickly and with clubs allowed five foreign players, he fills the spot vacated by Spaniard Diego Castro.

Ex-Liverpool players Robbie Fowler and Brad Jones, a Perth native who also joined Glory this offseason, played a role in the signing with glowing references for both the club and the competition.

Sturridge is currently in England saying his goodbyes to family and friends before heading to Australia. Glory are hopeful of having him in the country shortly and out on the training pitch by the end of October once he has completed his mandatory quarantine. That will give him three to four weeks to prepare for the season opener at home to Adelaide United on November 20.

Injuries have been a big problem throughout his career, but Sturridge says the break has been helpful in that regard and he is fit, working with a trainer following the conclusion of his time at Mallorca.

“This is the longest time I’ve ever had not playing competitive games, but in terms of training I’ve been training the whole time,” he said.

“I’ve not let myself go, had time off or had month stretches or anything like that where I’ve not been training. I haven’t really lost any fitness. In fact, I’ve lost weight, I’ve got probably more in shape.”

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The Sturridge acquisition is a massive coup for both Glory and the A-League Men as a whole, and the club’s owner Tony Sage has told of unprecedented demand for replica shirts baring the player’s name.

Australia’s top league has attracted some big names over the past decade, including Alessandro Del Piero, David Villa, Emile Heskey, Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill and Keisuke Honda, but two-time Champions League winner Sturridge is right up there with them all in terms of ability and hype.

With football down the pecking order in Australia’s sporting hierarchy, Glory will be keen to maximise Sturridge’s impact both on and off the pitch in an attempt to draw attention from some of the other codes.

While he admits to not knowing much about Glory’s history and supporter dynamic, Sturridge is looking forward to learning once he gets out and about in the community.

“I’m very fan friendly, I like to integrate with the fans,” he said.

“I like to think I’ve had a great relationship with the fans at every club I’ve played with really, and that’s important too.”

“Sometimes players ostracise themselves and feel that it’s best to stay away and not engage sometimes. For me, I’m the opposite. I like to engage with the fans, I like to have banter.”

Sturridge’s signature goal celebration is well known to football supporters across the world and if he can find the net on a regular basis, it will be hard to keep Perth Glory off the back pages.

The Author

Neil Sherwin

Co-editor of BackPageFootball.com. Writes mostly on Premier League and A-League with contributions to other sites including TheFootballSack, InBedWithMaradona and Bloomberg's BSports. Has featured on The Guardian's Football Weekly.

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