The stars will align, the star signings will produce, the Stadium of Light will be the fortress every manager tries to make it, and the away fans will be rewarded for their loyalty and devotion with goals and wins and joyful train journeys back from far flung places.
I’d like to think I’m an optimist by nature. But there’s a line between optimism and insanity, and for Sunderland fans that line can be drawn by asking just one question: will this year be Jack Rodwell’s year?
The answer, of course, is no. No, Jack Rodwell won’t be "like a new signing" this season. No, he won’t suddenly fulfill that potential which led Manchester City to take him to the Etihad in 2012, or which prompted Lee Congerton to blow £10 million to bring Rodwell to the Stadium of Light in 2014. This will be the third inevitably underwhelming year of Jack Rodwell’s absolutely astonishing five year contract, a contract the size and length of which must have seen his agent laughing all the way to the bank.
Jack Rodwell is a problem which Sam Allardyce, or whoever replaces Sam Allardyce if he’s poached by the FA, must find a way to deal with. He is a drain on resources, a blight on the wage budget, and a continual disappointment to everyone apart from his aforementioned, presumably remarkably skilled agent. Even during his run in the team last year, when the manager repeatedly praised his performances, his most marked contribution to the Sunderland team came in the form of failures. Missed chances, fluffed passes, Tommy Miller-esque vanishing acts.
The thing is, you can understand entirely why he’s been continually picked by managers. Physically, he possesses all of the attributes to make a very decent Premiership midfielder. Technically, at least at times, he’s shown genuine ability. Yet it seems to be his character, or lack of it, which has led to his failure to stake a convincing claim to a place in Sunderland’s midfield. Were he to take his lead from some of his less illustrious colleagues, and concentrate on using his physical attributes to cause other teams problems, he could become an invaluable player for Sunderland.
Yet, two years into his time on Wearside, there is no evidence that he has the drive to make his time here anything resembling a success.
So when the inevitable article surfaces about the important role Jack Rodwell’s got to play for Sunderland this season the oft-quoted definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, will spring to mind. Rodwell’s contract, and his complete failure to produce anything of any worth in a Sunderland shirt, probably means we’re stuck with him until it expires.
But please, for all of our sakes, let’s stop trying to pretend that he’s ever going to be any good. Trust me, it’ll be much easier that way.