This weeks Durham Times column was written by Rory Fallow and was first published in the newspaper this week
Since he signed in the summer of 2014 we’ve been waiting for Jack Rodwell to justify the £10 million that the club spent on him. With Lee Cattermole and Sebastian Larsson out injured and a tough set of fixtures approaching over the festive period, this could be Rodwell’s best opportunity yet.
When Sam Allardyce decided to change the set up of the team so early into the game against Watford, it became a chance for Rodwell to stake a claim alongside Yann M’Vila. He immediately showed his enthusiasm by steaming into a big tackle which gave the Stadium of Light a much needed lift in the process, as it often does. Throughout the rest of the game Rodwell was sharp and bright, not just defensively, but in looking to push the team forward. There was signs of his ability to link defence to attack by often bringing the ball out from the back and looking for the more attack minded players. Doubts were raised over a slight lack of decisiveness and not playing the ball quick enough but you’d hope that with a prolonged run in the side, that confidence will grow.
A run in the side could be on the horizon as well. With the afore mentioned injuries in midfield and games where the the central men are as important as ever, why not hand Rodwell his chance? If we allow him to play deeper with Yann M’Vila it still leaves Sam Allardyce the opportunity to play a more attacking player in the midfield three such as Ola Toivonen, Duncan Watmore, Fabio Borini or even the forgotten Jordi Gomez. Even if we’re to raise doubts over Rodwell in the games against Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool, you feel that the calm class of M’Vila next to him will have a positive influence.
It was also away to Manchester City that Jack Rodwell had possibly his best game in a red and white shirt. Again, due to injuries, Rodwell was tasked with playing the deep lying role and had an excellent first half as Sunderland went in 0-0 at the break. He then popped up the score with a very well executed header to drag us back into the game after a quick fire City double had put them 2-0 up. The game ended in a 3-2 win for Man City but Rodwell could hold his head high after a good showing. Unfortunately he didn’t get the opportunity to kick on from this display though as by the time we faced Liverpool in our next league game, Jack was out injured in what has became the story of his life here on Wearside.
It’s important now though to keep him fit and confident. Rodwell hasn’t started a game for Sunderland since we played Aston Villa away in August and, despite being one of his more frequently used substitutes, hasn’t started a game under Sam Allardyce. In the middle of midfield we all know how important consistency is for the team and the individual so giving the ex-Everton man these games where the expectation is generally lower, could have a positive impact. If he can keep his concentration in protecting the defence and sustain his tidy passing to develop attacks, we might see the beginning of what the club made such a big investment and commitment for.