Liverpool fans have come to dread international breaks more than most in recent years. Not just because we are reminded of the horrendous style of football we endured during 2010 under Roy Hodgson, but because our players always seem to return injured.
It’s becoming more than a bad joke now.
Brendan Rodgers revealed yesterday that Emre Can (six weeks), Joe Allen (one week) and most controversially Daniel Sturridge (three weeks) had all returned from duty with their respective countries crocked.
Whilst Can and Allen were both injured during matches, Daniel Sturridge’s thigh injury sustained during training has struck a real chord with Liverpool fans, angry at the way in which Hodgson’s ‘sports science’ team had handled the player.
Suspicions that the injury could have been avoided were rife before Rodgers voiced his thoughts yesterday – perhaps as Hodgson is hardly the most popular figure amongst Liverpool fans, a coach considered something of a dinosaur with no regards for sports science, or anything remotely forward thinking.
And those suspicions were confirmed yesterday, when a clearly angry Brendan Rodgers took to his press conference at Melwood, claiming that both he and Sturridge felt the player was mishandled whilst in Hodgson’s care.
“From images I’ve seen Daniel’s actually sprinted with the ball nearly 50 yards, three-quarters of the pitch, to shoot and that’s when he pulls up,” said Rodgers. “That’s where the issues are. We’re obviously disappointed because we feel it was an injury which could have been prevented.”
Rodgers was keen to point out that the problem arose, as Sturridge usually has a recovery day 48 hours after a game, given the players pace and vulnerability to muscle injuries – not to mention his injury history.
Whilst Hodgson and the England staff were made aware of this by both Rodgers and the player, Sturridge was injured playing an 11-a-side training match at full intensity, on the day that should have been reserved for recovery – something that has left Rodgers fuming with the England boss.
“Here we look at the individual player,” said Rodgers.
“Think of Daniel’s week. He plays a high-level game at Tottenham on Sunday, goes away and meets up with the [England] squad on Monday. I believe on the Tuesday they did a session which he was involved in. Then he played a second game on the Wednesday. On the Friday it would be an active recovery for us. After the game, 48 hours later, is critical for recovery.
“I think clubs work differently at times to international teams. It’s more the recovery strategy. When we look at our players here, we look at them individually in terms of what their needs are.
“Fast players would have a second day’s recovery, while other players can work on that day. When you are that type of quick player like Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and boys like Danny Welbeck, you need to recover them. Sturridge has worked so hard over pre-season and looked very fit and strong in our last game against Tottenham.”
The Reds now have suffered the bitter blow of losing their star striker for what appears to be the remainder of September – a month which includes three Premier League clashes, as well as the club’s long awaited return to the Champions League.
And whilst many will argue Liverpool fans are too quick to point the finger at Hodgson for any particular problem – be it stone-age football, injuries to key players, or the extortionate prices of England football shirts – on this occasion, there can be no arguments that the buck lies with the England boss.
Had Hodgson not been informed of Sturridge’s specific training programme, you could argue otherwise – let us give him a break and forget the fact he could have had the ability to think of it himself – but Rodgers was adamant the former Reds boss had been made aware when questioned.
“Absolutely,” he said. “The players go there and tell the associations how they work. Of course it’s always up to the manager of the association. And on that second day they can do tactical work but for us and the methods of how we work, that can only be low to moderate intensity in small spaces, or you get injuries.
“I have good relations with Roy. We speak, I give him the run-down on all our young players, their positioning, and all that. I’m one who is very pro the national teams. I am an Irishman and I actually want to help England. The core of our team is based around that. Look at Jordan Henderson the other night, playing in a diamond and he’s very fluid because he knows how to work it. Look at Raheem, he knows how to work it. We want to help them but this doesn’t help them and certainly doesn’t help us, especially when they know how we work.”
Rodgers has overseen a revamp in the sports science department at Anfield, which has played a key part in restricting the number of injuries to the clubs quicker players – the likes of Sturridge and Raheem Sterling.
That is where the frustration lies in what is clear mishandling of a crucial player for both club and country.
It also begs the question, that is it simply a coincidence Sturridge suffered a muscle injury during the first England training camp without Steven Gerrard?
Surely the Liverpool skipper would have had the authority to intervene on the situation, had he felt the warnings had not been heeded by Hodgson.
In the defence of the England boss, with the limited time he gets with the players you can understand his desire to work with a full squad at every available opportunity.
But a look at the bigger picture here would surely have prevented an injury to such a key player.
Liverpool are the ones that will suffer ultimately, with England more than capable of winning a straightforward group without Sturridge.
Ironically, the 25-year-old is set to return to fitness at the beginning of October – just in time for Hodgson to name his squad for the next round of qualifiers.
Let us pray he has learnt his lesson.
Do you think Roy Hodgson is the man to blame for Daniel Sturridge’s injury? Or is it simply a case of bad luck? Let us know your thoughts below.