STURRIDGE: STARTING STRONGLY
It would be no exaggeration to say that Daniel Sturridge has been through the mill over the past few months, but having returned to Cobham following his involvement with Team GB at the Olympics, he is fully-focused on the season ahead and cementing his position as a first team regular at Stamford Bridge.
Having been an unused substitute in both the FA Cup and Champions League Finals, Sturridge was then placed on the standby list for Euro 2012, and after narrowly missing out on the trip to Poland and Ukraine, his summer took a more positive turn when he was chosen by Stuart Pearce - along with Ryan Bertrand - to represent Great Britain at London 2012.
His participation in the tournament, however, appeared to be in doubt after he was struck down by viral meningitis early in July, and after recovering in time to take part, he was heavily involved in the campaign, scoring two important goals - including an exquisite chip against UAE - while also missing a penalty in the shoot-out against South Korea as the hosts were eliminated.
'It was a bit of a rollercoaster,' he tells the official Chelsea website. 'I didn't think I'd make the Olympics due to the illness.
'It all happened quite quickly, it was a long recovery, but in terms of the decision for me to go, that was quite quick.
'I was just happy to go, I wasn't feeling 100 per cent when I got there, but I was improving, and in the end I was glad to be a part of it.
'It went quite well, after everything I was just happy to be playing and I wasn't really focusing on the performances or how I did. I was grateful god helped me recover quickly because, without his presence, I wouldn't be where I am now.'
Last season was a story of two halves for the 23-year-old. One that started with him playing on the right of a front-three and scoring goals for fun, earning him a senior England debut against Sweden in the process, ended with him struggling to force his way into the side and having to be content with fleeting appearances from the bench.
The impending campaign is undoubtedly a big one for Sturridge, and with the likes of Eden Hazard, Marko Marin and Oscar all joining the club over the course of the summer, he is under no illusions as to what will be required if he is to feature on a regular basis.
'Collectively, winning trophies is what everybody wants to do,' says Sturridge. 'On a personal level, I just want to be playing regular first team football.
'Nobody wants to sit on the bench so it's important for me this season to be playing regularly and show everybody what I'm capable of doing as a centre-forward.
'Hopefully this season I'll be playing up front, so whoever the manager signs or wants to bring in, it only gives me the impetus to want to do better. It's important that you take your opportunities when they come along.'
Sunday sees us take on Sturridge's former club, Manchester City, in the annual curtain-raiser to the new season, the Community Shield, and while the game is essentially little more than a friendly, the player himself believes a victory against last season's champions can only breed confidence and belief ahead of the new campaign.
'The team who wins the Community Shield, historically, normally goes on to do well in the league so of course we want to win it,' says Sturridge.
'You don't want to lose games at any time. We want to hit the ground running and get the win but I don't know how much of a bearing it has [on the season].
'Teams get stronger, the likes of Manchester United and Manchester City tend to push on from around February time, but it's important to get off to a good start.'
Having endured a difficult time of late, Sturridge received some good news when he was called back into the England squad by Roy Hodgson for next week's friendly against Italy in Berne.
Club teammates Frank Lampard and Gary Cahill were also recalled having missed Euro 2012 through injury, while there was also a first call-up for Ryan Bertrand.
'It's good to be involved again, I've earned the call-up so hopefully I can make the most of the time I get on the pitch and perform well,' he admits.
'It's good for Ryan, he's worked very hard and not had many opportunities here. To get a call-up from his performances with Team GB shows what a talent he is and I'm sure both him and his family will be delighted.'