It really isn’t a good thing when you’re more likely to remember a former player for his involvement in a car crash following a pre-season friendly than you are to recall any of his performances in a red and white shirt.
However, utter the name Ian Rodgerson in any Wearside pub and those old enough to remember him will likely attest to memories of an allegedly drunk Derek Ferguson literally injuring all of Terry Butcher’s summer signings in one go through virtue of an automobile accident.
The winger joined the club as part of an overhaul by England legend Terry Butcher for what was then a tidy sum of £140,000 in the summer of 1993. Playing almost one hundred games in two seasons at Birmingham City, Ian Rodgerson arrived on Wearside with a reputation as a pacey winger with an eye for goal. He would also go on to attest that his entire family were from the North East and were die-hard Sunderland fans. It seemed like a perfect move all round for the player and club alike, but in typical Sunderland fashion, we somehow found a way to completely mess things up.
In this case, following a testimonial win at Middlesbrough (friendlies at ‘Boro? Those were the days) Derek Ferguson proceeded to drive the wrong way around a mini roundabout and write off his, and another, car in the process - all whilst carrying the contents of our transfer budget in his passenger seat.
Not only did he receive a fine and a 12-month driving ban, but he also injured all of our summer signings ahead of the first game of the season away to Derby County at the Baseball Ground. To the annoyance of Butcher, a third of his players were now out injured only a week before the season, and perhaps most importantly, they were his four key summer signings. As it was, Andy Meville recovered to complete the entire 90 the following week, but Ferguson lasted only twenty minutes, with Gray and Rodgerson ruled out due to injuries sustained in the crash. We also lost 5-0 and all positivity was drained from us only one game into the 1993/94 season. Sound familiar?
Rodgerson wouldn’t regain fitness until November (not that he was ever actually fit) when he made his debut in a 2-1 home to defeat to Portsmouth. However, with the crossing ability of Kevin Kilbane wearing his shoes on the wrong feet, it was clear from the onset that the Hereford born winger was a bit of a dud.
Exactly twenty days later, Terry Butcher was sacked and with that, Rodgerson’s Wearside career was ended before it had even begun. A manager in Mick Buxton that ‘didn’t fancy him’ coupled with constant injuries meant he only turned out for us a further nine times before leaving the club on a free transfer in 1995 for Cardiff City. He frequently appears on lists of SAFC’s worst ever players.
The signs were there however, with his injury woes beginning before he even joined the club. He missed out on a Wembley appearance with Birmingham due to a groin problem - something he described as “devastating to miss out on”. So perhaps it’s a surprise that he went on to play an average of thirty games per season over five years for hometown club Hereford Town between 1997-2002 - although on further inspection it would seem that he did continue to struggle with niggling injuries.
Rather than use his time on the treatment table as a negative though, Ian turned his medical problems into a positive, using his footballer’s pension as a way to fund physiotherapy courses. Whilst a qualified plumber he also took on adhoc work to cover his bills as he attempted to forge a way into the medical profession. He went on to qualify as a chartered physiotherapist on June 2nd 2007 and took up a role for former club Birmingham City’s youth academy, later taking on a similar role for now famous ‘vegan’ football club Forest Green Rovers.
During an interview with givemefootball.com in 2006 he admitted his ambition was to open his own injury clinic. It was an dream that became a reality when he opened the Ian Rodgerson Physiotherapy clinic, which is described as a ‘first class private physiotherapy practice’ and is based in his home town of Hereford where Rodgerson treats numerous injuries related both to sport and other unfortunate circumstances.
So, if you’re reading Jack Rodwell... there may be a career for you yet.