The Liverpool striker is reaping the benefits of his prolific season for club and country after a number of false starts
Daniel Sturridge has learned to live with the cases of mistaken identity. Even now he can be checking in for a flight only for the attendant weighing in his luggage to hand over a boarding card and, instinctively, refer to him in passing as "Dean" or "Simon". His uncles had been regular scorers with various clubs in the Midlands whose reputations, it appears, linger on. "It still happens, but I'm proud of what my family achieved," said the Liverpool striker. "They paved the way for me, and I looked up to them when I was younger, so I'm not too fussed. I'm cool. I'll be 'Dean', then."
This is a player who is now making a name for himself. Sturridge the younger will be restored to the England lineup for Tuesday's visit of Germany as the nation's forward of the moment, a player whose move to Merseyside in January sparked form that simply cannot go ignored. There have been 23 goals in 33 appearances for club and country this calendar year and, even with the thigh niggles that have hampered him since a friendly against the Republic of Ireland at the end of last season and a record that reads two goals in eight internationals, he is actually recognised as a key component of the nation's team.
Such lofty status is based on those prolific displays at Liverpool, where he has thrived with, and without, Luis Suárez. Sturridge's game has developed with opportunities. The 24-year-old no longer has to hog every second in possession, desperate simply to make an instant and obvious impact, as was the case during that stop-start spell spent largely as a fringe player on the right wing at Chelsea. There had been 31 league starts in three-and-a-half years for Chelsea – albeit a period that also encompassed a hugely successful loan spell at Bolton – a return which hardly fulfilled his publicly expressed initial aspirations to establish himself as "a great player" for the club.
"Maybe my [first] press conference put me on the back foot a little bit in the way people perceived me," he said, casting his mind back to the summer of 2009 and the aftermath of a controversial move from Manchester City to Stamford Bridge. "I have always been confident in my abilities, always had my faith in God, always expressed myself, but when you are a young player sometimes you get misunderstood. People were probably thinking: 'He is saying this and he has not proved himself, or done anything yet.'
"In the past I was maybe not given the opportunity to back up what I'd said or build my game, because you can't show what you can do if you only have 20 minutes [on the pitch]. I am now being given that chance. I'm thankful for my time at Chelsea, for what they did for me and my life, just as I am for what City did for me. I will never forget that.
"For me, that was a defining moment in my career, being at Chelsea, going through what has made me become a man in terms of my career. Even playing on the right wing helped my right foot, making me use it more, making me improve. I'm still working on my game as much as I can now, on strength and my left, but I'm playing in a [central] position where I can play my natural game. I'm just really happy getting opportunities."
He is taking them, too. Of the 11 goals in 15 games this season, perhaps the most sublime was a chip in the rout of West Bromwich Albion at Anfield last month: a dart towards the area under pressure from Youssouf Mulumbu, a quick glance up to see Boaz Myhill off his line and, from just outside the area, a delicate lob back across goal as the goalkeeper back-tracked. "I learned that one from Deco at Chelsea, where he'd do it a lot in training. It's started coming off for me, too, and it's important to try things.
"In the past I'd felt I didn't want to try something because I might get shot down for it. I'd tried it with England and the goalkeeper, I think it was against Poland, saved it. This time it came off.
"Sometimes you have to try these things and play without risk. As a youngster that's how it was: you tried to express yourself out on the pitch as much as you can. Maybe I stopped trying things when I got into the first team, but now I'm more comfortable and doing things off the cuff again. With the chip I just looked up and thought: 'I'm going to go for it.'
"In the past I wouldn't have gone for that; maybe I would have cut back or tried to play someone in, or took a normal shot. But when you feel more comfortable and confident you do try things you maybe wouldn't have done."
His father, Michael, as well as those celebrated uncles – or even the cousins who have played for Aston Villa's under-12s or Wolves Women – would have approved of that finish. Sturridge Sr was a junior at Birmingham and played at Wrexham and abroad, though he was arguably more effective as an in-house coach from whom his son sponged information. The younger forward would pore over Betamax recordings of Michael in action.
"They were from Finland when he played there," he said. "He would take me out on the park, put out cones, and he'd work on right foot and then left foot … we had those Samba goals and would do finishing, dogs always chasing us as we practised. He'd show me videos of Pelé or Wiel Coerver coaching instructions, and I was always trying to take stuff on board."
Now, after a few false starts, his career is taking off. Check-in attendants take note.