Having endured a pretty miserable maiden campaign thus far on Wearside, Sunday is a great chance for Jack Rodwell to make his mark in the blood and thunder of a Wear-Tyne derby.
First things first - I am one of those who is very much in the ‘pro Rodwell' camp, and believe in time he will go on to be a valuable asset for us moving forward. However, to spend most of last summer's transfer budget on this particular type of player suggests our recruitment team have failed to identify the main priorities when strengthening this squad. I'm sure Lee Congerton and Gus Poyet probably felt it was an opportunity too good to miss, given Rodwells availability, age and the fact his stock was still high despite enduring a wretched couple of years at the Etihad.
Given the nature of Rodwell's previous two years at City and our identity crisis within this current campaign, I think it would be wishful thinking to expect him to just come in and take the league by storm.
I mean, seriously, imagine lining up in the midfield next to Yaya Toure during the 13/14 season and then fast forward twelve months.....your stood next to Liam Bridcutt. That is going to take some getting used too, along with the fact that you're going to spend most games with inferior possession stats.
Although Rodwell himself suggested his injury record had been inflated during his time at City, it has been well documented that he has suffered with recurrent hamstring niggles in recent times. When we throw in the fact he has been played out of position regularly this term, it is easy to see why his form has been so inconsistent (like many others).
Despite this, the phrase ‘form is temporary, class is permanent' definitely reigns true when assessing players at this particular level. After establishing himself as an Everton regular, Rodwell was hailed as a potential future England captain which shows what high regard he was held in prior to the City move.
Ultimately he has not become a bad player overnight, and it is up to our staff and players to give him the support and direction he needs to regain that sort of form.
There have been positives this season - three goals in our ‘shot shy' ranks puts him near the top of our scoring charts from midfield. We'll ignore how dreadful that makes our attack look, but he has proved a threat arriving late in the box and aerially from set pieces.
I was in the away end at the Etihad earlier this season where I felt he had his best game for us, replacing Cattermole in that defensive screening position. In that particular match he went through Yaya Toure like a knife through butter, in one of the most beautiful 50-50s I have seen for a long time.
Little instances like that show the inner steel and drive this guy has, and that's why I think Sunday could be the sort of occasion which gets him going. Our recent successes against the Mags have been built upon foundations of team unity and players showing an understanding of what this game really means to the area.
With Cattermole back it's vital he has support from others around him, in order to press their midfield and create a tempo that has been mostly absent at the Stadium of Light this season. Given Newcastle's injury struggles, this is the game for us to really set an intensity and pace (especially early on) that lets them know how badly we want and need to win this game.
Rodwell's stature could also be advantageous given the midget nature of most of their midfield players, as well as providing an aerial threat from set pieces to their patched up centre half pairing.
In true Sunderland fashion, Jordi Gomez will probably get the start, and this article will be redundant. However in a game where the players must ‘earn their stripes', this may be the day that we see Jack Rodwell come of age in a red and white shirt.
(P.S. Rodders if you can ruin Jack Colback's life in another one of those beautifully timed 50-50s, that would be excellent.)