By North-west correspondent Alex Stevens
Daniel Sturridge has opened up about the “devastation” of spending so much time on the sidelines during an injury-plagued 18 months.
The Liverpool striker has been hampered by a series of serious injuries in the past two seasons and has had to endure a whispering campaign about his willingness to play through the pain barrier.
Sturridge has started Liverpool’s last two matches, and played in the club’s last three, after missing the previous 15 with a hamstring problem.
Sat alongside Jurgen Klopp at a pre-match press conference ahead of the Merseysiders’ Europa League last-32 second leg clash against Augsburg on Thursday night, Sturridge addressed the issue of his frequent absences from the team.
“When I’m not playing, I’m devastated. I’m not just at home or out with my friends chilling,” Sturridge said on Wednesday afternoon. “All I want to do is play football. It hurts to hear what people have said.
“To say a player doesn’t want to play is the biggest disrespect to a footballer. Astonishing, disappointing.
“Nobody knows how much it means to me to play football. I’m very ambitious, very determined to help Liverpool have success, and I want to be on the pitch playing every game.
“It’s been a difficult time being injured but it’s part of football and I’m looking forward to the future with Liverpool.”
In total, he has started just 15 of the last 97 competitive Liverpool matches and only one Premier League match during Klopp’s four-month reign, in which they thrashed Aston Villa 6-0.
Asked how he has coped with spending so much time on the treatment table, Sturridge replied: “I’ve always had my family, friends and Liverpool with me. I am happy to be playing and that’s all that matters.
“I am blessed by God and I have no stresses. I have come a long way from Birmingham. I am good.”