Thursday, 1 March 2012

Could The One That Got Away Make A Return? I Certainly Hope So...

The academy at City is regarded as one of the best in the country, and understandably so.  If you look back over the years, the amount of Platt Lane graduates still involved in professional football is numerous.  Under the stewardship of Jim Cassell the youth development arm of the club flourished, I am not going to list all of these graduates but there are many of them at all levels of the game.  

Of all the players to come off the Academy conveyor belt the best were clearly Micah Richards, who has made our right back position his own, Shaun Wright-Phillips, who has had a career in the top flight, and the focus of this piece, Daniel Sturridge a striker with the potential to be one of the best in the league.  His departure still bothers me to this day and for a long time I have thought about how much i'd love him back in Manchester.

The striker joined City when he was 13, moving up North from Coventry and straight away he began to make a name for himself.  In his first year he won the Nike Cup (largest under 15's football tournament) with City and in doing so he finished top goalscorer and was named player of the tournament, an accolade he shares with Carlos Tevez.  The following season he fired the club to the final of the FA Youth Cup, at 16, he was the youngest member of the team, but his 4 goals en route to the final in addition to the 2 he scored in defeat to Liverpool secured him a professional contract that came into play when he turned 17.

He played a bit part for a couple of seasons, balancing games for the reserves with first team appearances, mostly from the substitute bench, he was also hampered with injury, but in the 2008-2009 campaign he became an important member of the first team squad making 26 appearances over the course of the season.  It was a great shame that towards the end of that year it had become quite apparent that the youngster would move on, talks over a new contract reached an impasse and he moved to Chelsea, who at the time, looked like winning everything in sight.

Clearly at the time many of us labelled Sturridge greedy, believing he had taken the big pay day (something he has always denied) to go and warm the Stamford Bridge substitute bench, and for a couple of years it looked like a pretty bad move as the games came extremely infrequently.  It is unclear whether the powers that be at Chelsea realised just how talented the forward was, in fact I do wonder if his 6 month loan spell at Bolton for the 2nd half of last season saved his Chelsea career, he notched up an explosive 8 goals in 12 games for the Lancashire club, this really did make people sit up and notice, and for me personally the whole thing was hugely depressing.

If Sturridge had stayed at City I genuinely believe he would be further along in his development than he is now, not to say he is a bad player or that he could possibly fail to meet his potential, but he would have played much more football with us even with the stars we were beginning to sign at the time.  This season the 22 year old is playing an important part in the first team at Stamford Bridge, and the goals are flowing, but that doesn't take away from the fact that he is supposedly getting frustrated at Chelsea.

I do wonder if he now regrets the move, seeing where we are compared to where his new club are.  There is a big chance that AVB or whoever is in charge come the end of the season will miss out on Champions League football, where as we could theoretically end the campaign as Champions, had he stayed, he could have won an FA Cup medal and potentially a Europa League as well as the Championship.  His honours with his current club show 1 league title and 1 FA Cup, and lets be clear his role in these successes were minimal to say the least.

So why is he supposedly frustrated?  Reports in the media claim that he is growing tired of being forced onto the wing to accommodate the misfiring Torres and the ageing Didier Drogba.  I can entirely understand this irritation he is certainly looking like a better prospect than the Spaniard and with the Ivorian in the twilight of his career, surely the England international should be getting more of a go in central areas.

As is probably abundantly clear from this, I have always been a huge fan of Sturridge and I hold my hands up and say that I would love to see him back at Eastlands, granted we let him go for essentially nothing, and to bring him back would cost about £20 million, but look at it this way, he is a proven Premier League goal scorer, if theoretically we are to sign a new forward to replace Tevez or whoever, why should we spend £30 million plus on someone like Cavani or Lavezzi?  I genuinely believe that Studge has the ability to be a top top striker and at only 22, he is exactly the age of player that we should be looking at.

Roberto Mancini has made his feelings clear in the past and again recently he has reiterated that he really admires the player, so is this one a possibility?  I suppose a lot depends on how the season ends for Chelsea and whether the player is willing to swallow his pride and return to the club that made him what he is today.  There is also a doubt as to whether he would be accepted by the Eastlands faithful, but I would welcome him back happily.  Sturridge got away once, but if we have the chance to bring him back, surely we should jump at the opportunity?

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