allthingsliverpoolfc
Smith bowled over by Stevie and Anfield

Steven Gerrard’s indomitable character and impeccable service as captain of Liverpool doesn’t just inspire supporters, it has also been applauded by a skipper of a different sporting code.

South Africa’s Graeme Smith, who is the only man to wear the armband on over 100 occasions in Test cricket history, has saluted the “unbeatable qualities” of Liverpool’s leader.

Just like Gerrard, Smith’s commander capabilities were apparent from an early age, and he was awarded the Proteas captaincy at 22 - the youngest-ever for the country. The Reds midfielder was a year older when he succeeded Sami Hyypia as the club’s general in 2003.

Smith, who retired from international cricket last month, realised a life-long dream when he made the trip to Anfield for the first time on Sunday to witness Liverpool’s enthralling 3-2 win over Manchester City.

He watched as Gerrard turned in a typically dominant display, before rounding up the players in a huddle at the final whistle, instructing them to forget the valiant victory and “go again” next week.

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"Initially, what has to strike you most about Steven is that you don’t get people like him in modern sport often," Smith told Liverpoolfc.com. "His loyalty, pride and passion for Liverpool is so rare in these times and it makes him unique because just by that, he doesn’t have to say anything. The way he carries himself and the club says enough, he leads by example. Another thing I really admire about him is his calmness on the field. Regardless of the pressure or what is needed, he keeps his head and gets his instructions across. I watched him constantly talking to his players, guiding them. The thing about Gerrard is what he asks of his team, he delivers himself. It is very easy to follow him, and be inspired by him because his career is leadership enough."

Smith was overwhelmed by his debut trip to Liverpool as he remembers “lying on the floor or on the couch as a youngster watching the team play, being very caught up by them.”

"Every time I came across to England, I tried to find some sort of time in my schedule to visit Anfield, but because of cricket and the commitments in my career, there was never a gap," said Smith. "I actually flew back to South Africa last Wednesday because I had to give speech at a convention, but once I found out there was an opportunity to attend the Manchester City game, I knew I had to fly back. I had to rearrange everything and make sure I could finally get to visit Anfield."

The captain of Surrey is reveling in the current campaign not just because the Reds are perched at the Barclays Premier League summit, but as he also finally gets to dish out stick at home.

"I was the black sheep of my family. Everyone supports [Manchester] United, so I am the outcast," revealed Smith. "It’s been a lone battle for me against them, so as you can imagine, I’m obviously really enjoying this season."

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What made the 33-year-old deviate from his family’s course to pledge allegiance to the Reds?

"I was always very sporty, and growing up, you’d get attached to things - Liverpool was my attachment," he said. "John Barnes was a big hero of mine. When I used to play football, I would be put on the left as I played left-footed so I could relate to him."

Having harboured the dream to attend a match at Anfield from a young age, and with all the evidence available on how atmospheric the stadium is, was Smith prepared for the scenes that greeted him on Sunday?

"Nothing could’ve prepared me for it," he admitted. "Just walking into the stadium for the first time was amazing. I wanted to just take in all in and I was in my element. The atmosphere was incredible; unlike anything I’ve experienced before. It was so loud, so passionate and everyone was sharing in all the emotions. I keep watching video clips back on my phone to re-live it, it was definitely unforgettable for me."

How did Smith handle the horde of differing emotions during the victory over City?

"I really enjoy live sport, so I loved the experience. I suppose because I’ve played over years in all different kinds of atmospheres - volatile crowds, expectant crowds, I’m used to the emotions," he said. "But being a player versus being a fan is completely different. Being able to sing, and scream and be really disappointed when we conceded was so unreal for me. It was like every emotion through my career came out at Anfield on Sunday because for once, I didn’t have to think ‘there’s 50,000 people in the stadium watching you and about 20 million at home looking at your every move on TV’. I was allowed to embrace it and it was such freedom and enjoyment."

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After the game, Smith posted a picture of him touching the historic ‘This is Anfield’ sign with the caption: ‘Best sporting experience of my life today @LFC.’

Smith explained: “You can’t compare everything I experienced in my 11 years as captain or throughout my career with my experience as a fan. They are very different emotions. In terms of a sporting spectacle, the atmosphere and sheer entertainment, it was the greatest for me. I guess it was also the fact I felt so close to the club, but lived so far away, but then finally I was right there at a place that has strong childhood memories for me.”

It wasn’t just the melting pot of noise in L4 which impressed one of the finest cricketers of our generation.

"I was blown away the entire day. The first thing that struck me is the people at the club and how nice and accommodating they were," detailed Smith. "The service from Liverpool was excellent - they made sure I was looked after and the people skills were phenomenal. It really stood out for me. There’s always talk about sport institutions and how they interact with others, and Liverpool is a great example for everyone." 

@mamadousakho3: Huge victory today !!! Love you fans #YNWA
(Both he and Simon need to put on some pants though lol)

@mamadousakho3: Huge victory today !!! Love you fans

(Both he and Simon need to put on some pants though lol)

Liverpool 3 - 2 Manchester City | Premier League | 13.04.2014

  • Sterling 6’
  • Skrtel 26’
  • Coutinho 78’

MOTM: Philippe Coutinho

Next Match: Norwich (A) | 20.03.2014

Love it!!!!

Source

West Ham 1 - 2 Liverpool | Premier League | 06.04.2014

  • Steven Gerrard 44’, 69’

MOTM: Steven Gerrard

Next Match: Manchester City (H) | 13.04.2014

Liverpool 4 - 0 Tottenham | Premier League | 30.03.2014

  • Kaboul OG 2’
  • Luis Suarez 25’
  • Philippe Coutinho 55’
  • Jordan Henderson 75’

MOTM: Raheem Sterling

Next match: West Ham (A) | 06.04.2014

Liverpool 2 - 1 Sunderland | Premier League| 26.03.2014

  • Steven Gerrard 39’
  • Daniel Sturridge 48’

MOTM: Philippe Coutinho

Next match: Tottenham (H) | 30.03.2014

Daniel Sturridge Interview: Torres told me Liverpool are the best club he’s ever played for… I thought ‘I need a bit of that’

There will come a point today, as Liverpool’s team bus snakes through the streets of Cardiff, when Daniel Sturridge will zone out from those around him. All conversation will stop, his phone will come out and Sturridge will devote all concentration to the small screen in front of him. If your instinct is to say this is a lack of manners, think again. It’s actually the start of an intricate pre-match routine, designed to bring him to fever pitch.

For on Sturridge’s phone is a compilation of the 28 goals he has scored in his 15 months as a Liverpool player. He analyses them relentlessly, imagining how the next header, volley or tap-in will look. Clearly the studying is paying off.

Sturr it up! Daniel Sturridge is the league's leading English goalscorer with 18 goals so far this season

Inspiration: Sturridge watches a compilation of his goals ahead of games to get him in the scoring mood

Can they do it? liverpool travel to Cardiff on Saturday still in the race for the Premier League title

"I watch the goals to get me n the mood and to give myself a vision of how I want the game to go." Sturridge explains, as he holds court in the media room at Liverpool’s Melwood training base. "I have got more clips as the season has gone on, but that’s good."

"I will do the same routine against Cardiff. The clips now last around 15-20 minutes which is normally what the coach ride to a stadium takes, so it is perfect. I still get the same feeling every time I watch the video back."

"After that in the changing room, I will be dancing and joking. A lot of players are straight-faced and serious, some are the opposite. It’s like that until 10 minutes before kick-off and I am in the zone. Then there is no more joking about."

This is a candid insight into the workings of a young man for whom the next few months will be momentous. As England’s main striker, expectation will grow the closer the World Cup comes into view but, before that, he could help his club achieve something remarkable.

Main man: Sturridge looks set to lead England's attack at the World Cup in Brazil, despite his dodgy celebrations

Dynamic duo: Sturridge has formed the Premier League's most potent partnership with Luis Suarez (L)

old enemy: United players are furious after Sturridge wins a penalty in Liverpool's 4-1 victory at Old Trafford

Liverpool might be outsiders but there is no disputing they are in the thick of a pulsating title race and Sturridge has done as much as anyone to get them there. His fortunes have mirrored that of his team, on a constant upward spiral since the turn of last year.

If it was initially doubted whether Sturridge, who had been saddled with a reputation for being  difficult, would be a good fit at  Liverpool, it is now impossible  to imagine Brendan Rodgers’s side operating without the 24-year-old.

Anfield’s stage suits him. Before he headed north, he spoke with a striker who knew what relentless goalscoring in a red shirt could do.  Fernando Torres’s love affair with the Kop ended the day he joined Chelsea in 2011 for £50million but that did not stop him giving  Sturridge some significant advice.

Red leader: Sturridge has found the perfect place to develop his game at Anfield

"He always spoke very highly about Liverpool," says Sturridge. "When we were at Chelsea together he would say, ‘Liverpool are  amazing’, and it wasn’t just him — it was Yossi Benayoun as well. They both said, ‘That club is the best I have played for’. They said the fans will make you feel amazing and, at the time, I thought I need a bit of that in my life because I was low right then." 

"I need to feel good about myself, so it was an easy decision to come here. My dad (Michael), my uncle (Dean, the former Derby striker) and I all shared the same opinion: this was the best place to go. When Liverpool came in, it was one of those situations that I just wanted to get up the M6 as quick as possible, sign on the dotted line and get to work."

Take a bow: Sturridge moved in the opposite direction and scored on his debut against Mansfield Town

"I was desperate to get here and show what I could do. I was  hungry and I am still hungry. There is so much for us to achieve."

What they might achieve in the next nine games, starting against Cardiff, has supporters daring to dream. Sturridge was only eight months old when Liverpool last ruled the land but this, perhaps, is their best chance since 1990 and if he and Luis Suarez keep scoring, anything is possible. Between them they have  plundered 43 goals in the Barclays Premier League but that has not stopped the perception that there is some friction between the pair, not least when Suarez has been caught on camera berating his partner for not passing.

Friend or foe? There have been question marks over the relationship between Sturridge and Suarez

License to thrill: Sturridge has nicknamed Steven Gerrard 'James Bond', because he can do everything

Do you wanna see a trick? Meanwhile, Sturridge as labelled Philippe Coutinho 'David Blaine' for his magical passes

"Yeah well, I do the same to him!" Sturridge responds. "Luis does have a go at players but that’s because he wants the best. I want the best, too, the same as Stevie (Gerrard). We all do. We are at a stage now where we have to push everyone to their maximum. Some players respond to shouting, some don’t. Everyone is different and that is one of a  manager’s strengths to understand that some don’t respond to that. But I feel that as a team, if we push each other to our limits, we can achieve something."

Having dubbed Gerrard ‘James Bond’ — Sturridge feels there is nothing Liverpool’s captain can’t do — and Philippe Coutinho ‘David Blaine’ as he is ‘a magician’, Sturridge is working on a nickname for Suarez but only once they have taken care of the serious business.

Confident: Despite manager Brendan Rodgers playing down title talk, Sturridge insists Liverpool are in the mix

Favourite: Sturridge rates his glancing header in the 3-3 derby against Everton as his best goal this season

Reach for the sky: Sturidge's goals could still help fire Liverpool to his dream of winning the Premier League

There are more goals to be scored and while Sturridge regards the glancing header that salvaged a  3-3 draw against Everton in November as his favourite so far, the best — and most important —may be yet to come. 

"At the beginning of the season the aim for everyone was to get into the Champions League," says Sturridge, who already has a title medal from his spell with Chelsea. "But as time has gone on and we have done well, now we’re getting towards the business end and we’re up there. A lot of people’s perception is that maybe we can win the league. There are others in a better  position so we just have to take each one as it comes and see where we end up. When I came here it was a dream, of course, to be involved in winning titles."

Source.

Cardiff 3 - 6 Liverpool | Premier League | 22.03.2014

  • Luis Suarez 16’ 60’ 95’
  • Martin Skrtel 40’ 54’
  • Daniel Sturridge 75’

MOTM: Daniel Sturridge

Next game: Sunderland (H) 26.03.2014

@luissuarez16: “Very happy with this great victory! We continue fighting up there! Great debut of my new @adidasUK Samba Primeknit!”

@luissuarez16:Very happy with this great victory! We continue fighting up there! Great debut of my new Samba Primeknit!”

Manchester United 0 - 3 Liverpool | Premier League | 16.03.2014

  • 34’ Steven Gerrard (PK)
  • 46’ Steven Gerrard (PK)
  • 84’ Luis Suarez

MOTM: Steven Gerrard

Next game: Cardiff (A) 22.03.2014

"If teams want to play 2v2 against these two, Sturridge and Suarez, all the best…"

- Steven Gerarrd

International round-up:

  • England NT: Steven Gerrard; Glen Johnson; Raheem Sterling; Jordan Henderson; Daniel Sturridge.
  • Denmark NT: Daniel Agger
  • Uruguay NT: Luis Suarez

Southampton 0 - 3 Liverpool (01.03.2014) (Premier League)

  • 17’ Luis Suarez
  • 58’ Raheem Sterling | (Luis Suarez assist)
  • 94’ Steven Gerrard | (Luis Suarez assist)

MATCH REPORT | Rodgers post-Southampton | Gerrard post-Southampton

Next Game: Manchester United (A) | 16.03.2014