LONDON, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge says he is ready to shrug off his "injury-prone" label when he returns after a five-month layoff for West Ham United's visit to Anfield in the Premier League on Saturday.
The England hitman, who struck 21 league goals for Liverpool last season, suffered a thigh injury on international duty in September.
Liverpool have struggled while Sturridge endured a series of setbacks that prolonged his time on the sidelines and led detractors to describe the 25-year-old as "fragile".
Sturridge has seen many of the negative comments but is only concerned with a return to the pitch and turning a tough time into a positive experience.
"I could say a lot of things about people's lifestyle," Sturridge told The Telegraph. "I feel that there are some players who are lucky not to be injured and some who are unfortunate to be injured.
"I know I get stick on social media but that is from people who have a lot of time on their hands and like to share their opinions.
"I don't worry about the criticism. I used to when I was younger. Now I only listen to the opinions of people I care about.
"This is just one small moment in my career. I have got another 10 years and I see this time as being something that will allow me to enjoy my career more, to get more out of it," he added.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has said Sturridge's absence has had a "huge impact" on the season, with the team eighth in the table and five points adrift of the top four, but he will not rush the striker's reintroduction.
Sturridge was desperate to return in Liverpool's League Cup semi-final defeat at Chelsea on Tuesday.
"I could have played in that semi-final and it was the most difficult thing for me," he said.
"I wanted to push myself and I wanted it so bad. It was the management who made the decision. I argued my case, but at the end of the day they made the best decision for us going forward, for the club, for myself."
Reporting by Sam Holden, editing by Ed Osmond