Despite the staggering array of narratives surrounding Sunderland AFC this summer, one in particular stands out among the rest. Central midfielder Jack Rodwell has recently come to mainstream attention for all the wrong reasons. The former England international made headlines as a young prospect at Everton, becoming a regular in the first team in his teenage years.
This ultimately resulted in a transfer to Manchester City in 2012. Rodwell then unfortunately fell victim to the Mancunian Giants’ routine. This would be the perfect basis for an article in itself, but, in short, it involves a promising young player allowing their career to stagnate whilst languishing on the bench. Other examples of this effect include Scott Sinclair and Stevan Jovetic. But I digress.
After making limited appearances for Manchester City, Rodwell joined Sunderland for a fee of around £10 million in 2014. Many Sunderland fans, me included, felt pleased at this arrival. Memories of endless Match of the Day magazines adorned with his image as a youngster fully captured my imagination. What followed this, however, was less than ideal.
Rodwell made for an especially uninspiring addition to the squad. His main contribution was earning the sensational record of 39 games without a victory whenever he featured in the squad. Ultimately, he fell out of starting eleven contention due to his lackluster performances. The status of ‘former England under-21 regular’ can only take you so far, it seems.
One relegation later, with Sunderland free-falling to the bottom of the Championship table, Rodwell remained absent as ever. A select few optimistic fans had predicted a resurgence for him after our relegation. If he couldn’t hack the Premiership level, surely he might find his feet in a lower league. Yet, surprisingly, Rodwell scarcely made any appearances on the bench, let alone the first team. Making three appearances for the club over all competitions, Rodwell steadily became less than an afterthought.
Rodwell asks to leave
At this point, the story turns sour- at least, more sour than it had already become. Rodwell apparently asked to leave the club in January 2018, yet at that point no team would touch him with a 50-foot stick. Reports later surfaced that manager Chris Coleman had offered to cancel his contract, gifting him the opportunity of the exit he desired. In a move which would turn the entire fanbase against him, Rodwell rejected this offer.
Instead of leaving the club to possibly re-energise his career at a different club, he chose to be content with sitting in the reserves and collecting his £42,000 per week of Championship wages. Chris Coleman remarked during a press-conference in April that he had no idea where the player was mentally, and doubted that he would be fit enough to be picked.
The Rodwell situation epitomises the problem with modern-day football. The player will most likely continue to collect these wages until the end of his contract in June 2019. Ultimately, he will represent nothing but a leech of the club finances for the coming year, providing nothing of value to the team and slowly allowing his career to perish.
This already awful situation has become even worse by Rodwell’s attitude to his actions. During a Daily Mail interview, he insisted that he was a Premier League player and had the ability to play for England. He further reflected that he wasn’t to blame for the whole Sunderland situation. He even displayed a horrible sense of self-pity, claiming that he just needs a ‘good run’. Honestly, he should bottle and sell the confidence which allows him to feel this way.
In the long term, I do hope Rodwell gets his career back on the right track. It must be said, however, that he has handled an admittedly bad situation in an awful manner. His willingness to allow his career to stagnate proves an alarming focus on money. This attitude is unfortunately held by many other players in an era where wage totals are increasing exponentially. Nevertheless, this narrative will be an interesting one to observe in the weeks before the new season.