Daniel Sturridge will likely go down in history as the worst purchase in Perth Glory history.
With the Men’s A-League season now complete, Sturridge signing in purple for another year seems incredibly unlikely.
It was hailed as one of the biggest transfers in the league’s history, but fans, the club, and even the player himself will likely be happy to see each other again after a tumultuous year.
But while Sturridge’s signing probably helped a few people hit some KPIs, there was a lack of tangible benefit in the aftermath to justify the initial hype surrounding his arrival.
Sturridge’s signing spoke to who Perth Glory felt the need to be – a club with big ambitions and flashy names – but in the end, it reflected the mire and turmoil with which the club is much more often associated.
The England international played around 140 minutes all season. It failed to find the net as an overstretched schedule, and numerous injuries thwarted any attempt to make a mark on the club.
It was hoped his signing would make the club relevant in a bustling local sports market, but instead, it became a punch line.
Camera IconPERTH, AUSTRALI – APRIL 30: Daniel Sturridge of the Glory controls the ball during the A-League Men match between Perth Glory and Western Sydney Wanderers at HBF Park, on April 30, 2022, in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images) Credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images
In a January piece for The West Australian, I wondered aloud what Sturridge’s short- and long-term impact would be if any.
As it turned out, his legacy was just a handful of fleeting appearances and an ironic haircut.
The Glory must come to terms with the fallout from their decision to sign him a major contract and wonder what it says about them that they were so eager to sign the injury-prone striker.
To give the club some leeway – there was no way they could have predicted that the games would become so disjointed after Omicron had swept across the country and postponed games, nor could they have guessed that the entire squad would be bundled into hotel quarantine because one of their players tested positive.
Both events impacted Sturridge’s ability to contribute – but putting him on in the first place involved significant risk as he’d been seemingly permanently under a cloud of injury for the past six seasons.
Offering him high wages at high prices was the equivalent of a Danny Ocean heist – sure, the potential payoff was great, but every little thing had to go right for it to succeed.
And Perth Glory is less Ocean’s 11, and more Waterworld.
To consistently attract box office audiences, there needs to be more than just a big name to the project.
You also need a strong director and a good supporting cast to continue the film analogy.
On his resignation, former coach Richard Garcia told The West Australian that his hands were tied regarding Sturridge’s signing.
“People go on and on about Sturridge, but when you ask for money, you’re told there isn’t one, and that (Sturridge signing) is happening…that’s another problem,” he said.
Camera icon Daniel Sturridge of Perth Glory during the A-League match between Perth Glory and Macarthur FC at UTAS Stadium, Launceston, Wednesday, February 23, 2022. (AAP Image/Linda Higginson) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL ONLY Credit: LINDA HIGGINSON/AAPIMAGE
If the club did indeed put a premium on pursuing a great player at the expense of the squad’s development, they were reaping what they had sown this season as they faced a horrendous list of injuries.
Sturridge was signed outside the salary cap as a major player, but my immediate question when he signed was how he would fit next to star striker Bruno Fornaroli.
Sturridge’s signing gave insight into the type of club Perth Glory aspires to be – with big names and huge crowds at the top of the list.
Throwing money at the nearest star striker on the market doesn’t make a football club – and for a team that seemingly has no identity both on and off the pitch, it just exacerbates the growing gulf between fans and club.
Sturridge’s 10-minute cameo off the couch on his debut may have drawn 18,000 people to HBF Park, but not many of those fans came back when Glory’s season went off the rails, and those who did show up out of devotion to more than a big desire to be there.
We are a world away from the crowd cheering Sturridge’s debut, but the club should be more concerned about how far they are from the halcyon days of the late 90s and early 2000s when Perth was the league benchmark, not the smiling stock.
The Glory saw Sturridge as the answer in a post-Diego Castro world, but despite the former’s parentage, the latter’s name remains the name that The Shed sings.
As Sturridge’s best sight on target all season, on their trip to Tasmania to face Macarthur, his impact flew wide.