Rodwell needs a slice of luck to realise his undoubted potential… and it must happen soon
15:39 GMT, 23 March 2012
Jack Rodwell had just helped England’s Under 21s get their qualification campaign for Euro 2013 off to the best possible start when talk turned to the future.
Having oozed class in a thumping 6-0 win for Stuart Pearce’s side at Vicarage Road over Azerbaijan, the Everton midfielder immediately realigned his sights on domestic affairs and made a bold prediction.
‘This is the season for me,’ he declared. ‘Last season was frustrating. I had a lot of injuries and couldn’t really get a pattern of football going. I wasn’t really fit. But hopefully that won’t happen this season and I can stay fit and I can get I can get back-to-back games.
Tough times: Jack Rodwell has endured a frustrating season with Everton
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‘I had a few weeks off to reflect on the season, put it behind me and move on. The tournament (European Championships) in the summer didn’t go how I expected they would go, for us as a team and for me personally. I’m ready now. I feel fit, I feel sharp and focused.’
Rodwell’s name has been one of the most hotly debated on Merseyside in recent years and he knew the time had arrived for him to deliver. After all, Everton had just sold Mikel Arteta to Arsenal for 10million and someone was needed to take over the Spaniard’s mantle.
Initially everything went to plan. Rodwell made 10 consecutive starts after returning from the September international break and appeared to be growing into his role. Not even a scandalously received red card in the Merseyside derby – which was hastily rescinded – checked his momentum.
All over the country, people started to
take notice. Fabio Capello was so impressed that he awarded Rodwell his
first two England senior caps in the November friendlies against Sweden
and Spain. Scouts from Chelsea, meanwhile, watched intently, as they
plotted a big money January move.
Then, though, the curse that had
blighted Rodwell returned. He broke a rib in the game against Sweden,
recovered briefly to play in a 1-0 defeat against Stoke at Goodison Park
before then the serious problems took over.
Potential: Rodwell played in England's win over Spain at Wembley last year
Rodwell has sustained four separate hamstring injuries in the last four months, a sequence that has only allowed him to play in four further Barclays Premier League games, and once again he is being spoken of in terms unfulfilled potential.
So maddening. This 21-year-old is almost the identikit footballer for the modern age. He is tall, built like a wall, quick and strong. He can pass well, is athletic and possesses a withering shot. He should be moving impressively through the gears.
For the moment, though, questions are being asked about whether that potential will be turned into something substantial, as Evertonians are waiting to see him grab a game by the scruff of the neck and completely dominate.
Olympic duty Rodwell models the kit
Yet he failed to sparkle in the
Merseyside derby, then missed the FA Cup quarter-final with Sunderland
and the Barclays Premier League game against Arsenal in midweek.
Mystified and concerned, Everton have been running extensive tests to
get to the root of the problem.
‘He seems quite strong (mentally) and he will overcome this,’ said Everton assistant manager Steve Round earlier this week. ‘It is just a case of easing him off at the minute and easing him back.
‘Once he gets into the team and gets (another) run of games, he will improve. Jack is at the stage where he needs to be a regular. This has set him back a little bit but I have got confidence he is going to be a top player.’
As do many others at Goodison Park. Everton chairman Bill Kenwright spoke with Rodwell at length last summer to pick him up after the disappointment he suffered in Denmark – his form dipped as England flopped – while Phil Neville has always been on hand to offer advice.
Listen to David Moyes speak about him and he will tell you Rodwell is a central figure in the group of young English players – such as Phil Jones, Danny Welbeck, Kyle Walker and Daniel Sturridge – currently emerging and it is still not out of the question that he could go to Euro 2012.
How, though, he could do with that change in fortune. Rodwell has two seasons ruined by injury. The time has come for him to be spoken of for all the right reasons.