Jack Rodwell’s time on Wearside is running out, but does he still have a part to play?
John Hopkins once argued that athletes only have 10 years at the top of their game.
Makes sense, I suppose. Michael Schumacher’s World Championships, Michael Jordan’s MVP titles and Joe Frazier’s professional wins all span 10 years exactly.
Of course, these sportsmen were still able to compete longafter their prime, but the egg timer of peak performance ticked down after a single decade.
With this in mind, our big worry has to be that Jack Rodwell’s senior debut for Everton came in December 2007.
That’s 10 years ago, maths fans.
There’s a case to be made that Rodwell hasn’t actually *played* a decade’s worth of football – y’know with all the injuries, sitting on Manchester City’s bench and not getting a sniff of the ball.
On the other hand, have a read what Simon Grayson had to say about Rodwell wanting to play at centre back:
“He felt that might be his best position because psychologically, and maybe physically as well, his body perhaps can’t take the demands of playing in midfield any more.”
(Also – quick reminder – life as a centre-half isn’t exactly an easy ride.)
I’m in the habit of giving players the benefit of the doubt. . . but this poses a LOT of questions.
Have we already seen the best of the 26-year-old? Has he grown bored with the club? How can Chris Coleman eke the most out of him?
Well, first off, I can’t see the Englishman returning to play centre back like he did at youth level.
Sorry, Jack, but given the manager’s history with three-man defences means Sunderland’s first move this January will be for a centre back. You won’t be getting your wish.
A change is needed, mind. Bottom line – if Coleman doesn’t think Rodwell’s useful, he’ll be sold faster than an unwanted jumper on Boxing Day*.
“It is down to the individual. Jack [Rodwell] is super talented but hasn’t played enough. You can have a new manager, a new way of working, but it is still Jack and so whatever he needs to do to play more, that’s what he has to do.”
So what’s the lad to do?
The obvious solution would be for him to cut the cord and start afresh with a new club. That’s where the smart money’s pointing, anyhow.
But with at least another half a dozen years’ football ahead of him, he’s obviously been mulling over how to reignite his career. The question is, how?
Well, a start would be to stop looking at where he’s been and notice where he’s going.
Once able to drive forward and direct play, Rodwell seems to have got bigger and more bothersome. Going for goal has been replaced with hoovering up stray passes. A menace in the air, the midfielder has become more physical than technical.
Ladies and gentleman, he’s turning into Marouane Fellaini.
It’s maybe not the “sexy” football many hoped he would be playing. But rather than shy away from this transformation, it’s important that he embraces it.
When Fellaini signed for Manchester United in 2013, he stuck out like a sore thumb. Yet under José Mourinho he’s become an invaluable midfield alternative.
Coleman’s first couple of matches saw the Black Cats trying out ground-hugging passes, but the game against Wolves has proved the importance of the... ahem... physical side of the sport.
For those games we need someone like the Belgian – someone who can guard the ball, offer short/safe passing options and free up the forward-thinking players.
It’s not about sitting in front of the back four and pulling the strings; it’s about always being available for the pass and generally making a nuisance of yourself.
Don’t get me wrong, Rodwell would need to ramp up his fitness levels and aggression, but it’s a role that could offer him purpose when before he’s looked lost.
He better do it soon, though – I can hear his egg timer ticking.
*Don’t take it personally, Mum.