Jack Rodwell Returns: What Next For The Midfielder?

Paul Thomas

Jack Rodwell made his return from a hamstring injury in Manchester City's 3-0 win over West Ham United in the Carling Cup on Tuesday.

Rodwell's City tenure hasn't been pleasing for the Englishman and he is currently running on borrowed time to create an impact at the Etihad Stadium.

This article analyses Rodwell's potential future at City.

Youth and Everton Days

Rodwell joined Everton's youth academy at the age of seven and quickly rose through the ranks to make his reserve team debut at 15. He completed his education from Birkdale High School and played for the school's football team.

Despite his stocky appearance, Rodwell was head-and-shoulders above his colleagues and easily matched the abilities of the players older than him. He also played an instrumental part in Birkdale United's most successful season in their history (2001/02), when they won 14 trophies.

According to Birkdale United manager Ste Cattlin, "Jack was a very level headed boy, very good on the ball and was very aware of what was going on around him".

He further adds: "He (Rodwell) was very confident and was quite tall for his age...When he was really young he was released by Liverpool. They wanted him back but Jack's parents said 'no' as they'd already had their chance. I always remember one tournament we played in when we went over to Belgium. Jack was playing against lads who were five years older than him but he didn't look out of place at all. In fact, he was that impressive he won the man of the match award."

It wasn't long before Rodwell was drafted into Everton's first team and he made his first professional start in 2008 against Blackburn Rovers. Two years later, he signed his first professional contract at Goodison Park.

Rodwell's senior Everton days were hindered by injuries and inconsistent performances.

He had the potential and was versatile, playing as a defender before shifting towards a midfield role. But he was either spending time on the treatment table or when fit, failed to produce consistent displays, an issue even raised publicly by David Moyes in 2011.

"He is still young and you have to remember there are lots of 20-year-olds who do not get consistent runs of games," said Moyes.

"But we put him out there early. What we have said to Jack is "hey, come on – let’s see some consistency from you". We want to see if we can get him improving."

Move to Manchester City

Rodwell was linked with a string of clubs when he was at Everton, like Manchester United, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester City.

His value was over-hyped by the English media vultures- Sun once included him in their list of Top 10 future stars of England despite that Rodwell hadn't even made 40 senior appearances by then.

United, in particular, appeared to be strongly interested in Rodwell. According to reports the Red Devils offered to swap Michael Carrick for Rodwell in 2010 and a year later, they apparently agreed a deal with Everton to sign the youngster.

But, eventually only City actually bid for him, in the summer of 2013. And it was a panic buy on the Citizens' part.

Roberto Mancini's initial targets, Javi Martinez and Daniel De Rossi, had rejected offers from City. It was mid-August and the Sky Blues hadn't signed a single player, while United had already bought Shinji Kagawa and were closing in on Robin van Persie. Mancini was whining how he wasn't being provided the required help to carry out the transfer activities.

And, whoop- City paid a cheque of £13.2 million for Rodwell.

The bid came barely 24 hours after City were first linked with the midfielder. Rodwell was known for being injury prone and wasn't a starter under Moyes. Even the player was taken aback by City's move.

2012/13 Season- Injuries, Change in Lifestyle

Injuries have prevented Rodwell from fulfilling his potential.

Since August 2009, Rodwell has reported 19 injuries, mostly hamstring.

Over five seasons at Everton, the now 22-year-old played the full ninety minutes just 47 times. And he is believed to be a player with a "huge natural stamina".

The staff at Everton and Rodwell tried several methods to solve his injury problems.

The former believed Rodwell's hamstring problems were owing to a nervous system problem and were "so confused with his development" that they shipped him off to Germany to see rehab specialist Dr Müller-Wohlfahrt.

Yet, that didn't help.

After a tough start to his City career, Rodwell even made several changes to his lifestyle to overcome his hamstring problems.

I had a low sports car," Rodwell said in Ferbruary 2013 when he was on the verge of returning to first-team fray. "That wasn’t necessarily the reason [for the injury], but it was a factor. I also changed my pillows and moved a bit closer to Manchester as well because I didn’t want to be sat in the same position [driving] for an hour a day.

"Before the last five or six weeks, I used to go into training and was never confident. I was just praying I got through training and that’s just not the way to be at all.

"So we took a step back, went back to the drawing board and looked at everything. Now, there’s not a second thought about injuries when I go into training, so that’s good."

However, Rodwell suffered a hamstring injury just a month after this interview.

In total, Rodwell made just 12 appearances for City last season and completed just two games. He played 551 minutes of football, that's around just six full games- in ten months.

And in those matches, Rodwell's impact was nominal or limited and he committed woeful blunders versus Southampton and Borussia Dortmund.

Manuel Pellegrini

Before the start of the season, in an interview with FourFourTwo, Rodwell said he was confident his "injury hell" was behind him.

"Last season was a bit disappointing as I was injured a lot, but I felt like when I played I impressed," he told FourFourTwo. "One minute I felt like I could do well, and the next it'd be difficult again, so I hope this season I can just stay injury free."

He further added that new manager Manuel Pellegrini had assured Rodwell of a first-team role.

"I’ve sat down with the manager and he wants me to play a lot of games."

Rodwell started against Cardiff City on 14th September, but he was ruled out for four weeks seven days later. He suffered another injury in November, followed by yet another setback, reported on 1 January 2014.

This means, Rodwell has played just 279 minutes under Pellegrini so far.

Conclusion: He can't fit in

The simple issue is, Rodwell can't fit into the City squad, despite being versatile.

Pellegrini won't play him as a defender- if City desperately need one, they'll buy a world-class centre-half in the summer. Holding midfield role is not for Rodwell, owing to his occasional lapses in concentration (evident against Southampton and Dortmund last term).

It leaves us with the box-to-box midfield role, Rodwell's favourite.

"He was absolutely outstanding and loved playing for us because we let him go up front..."

- Nick Hanlon (Rodwell's former mentor at school)

"I like to play box-to-box and use my energy a bit more, rather than be nailed on as a holding midfielder and just stay behind the ball. I like to get forward as well as back."

-Rodwell (2013)

"I have been playing box-to-box more for Everton so I felt comfortable in that position..."

-Rodwell (2011)

But at City, this role is occupied by Yaya Toure- Premier League's best box-to-box midfielder.

Hence, to simply conclude, there is a little chance that Rodwell will be able to become a starter at City in the foreseeable future.

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