Following on from the news leaked midweek that Sunderland AFC are looking to rip up Jack Rodwell’s £70,000 per-week contract, the midfielder has hit back.
In an exclusive interview with Craig Hope of the Daily Mail, Rodwell has disputed claims that he is just in the game for the money, insisting that he is fit and simply wants to play football.
In the interview with Hope, Rodwell has declared himself fit, insisting:
Listen, I’m training three times a day, I feel great. It’s the fittest I’ve ever been, in a weird way, and that’s without playing.
It’s the best condition I’ve been in for a long time and hopefully someone will reap the benefits of that. I’ve not spat my dummy out, I’m getting on with it, trying to turn the situation into a positive.
This is my hardest spell here but there would be no use in me slacking off or huffing, I need to use this time to get ready for whatever is next. That excites me. I need a new challenge.
That is all well and good, but few at the club would have any sympathy for him. After three-and-a-half years of underperforming and constantly being unavailable for selection, he has raked in an incredible £1.1m for every point gained in a Sunderland shirt, as Roker Report writer Connor Bromley calculated. Even being generous and theorising that cup wins would generate three points for a win and one for a draw, Rodwell would have gained £744,687 for every point gained.
But it’s “not about the money”, not at all. As Rodwell himself claims:
Now, for me, it’s not about money, it’s about playing. If that means moving on to help the club in a situation that suited all parties, I would need no convincing. I’m a footballer, I want a football club.
’Why would I just walk away and be left jobless? The transfer window has two weeks to run and I’m prepared to do anything to play — any decision will be based on the chance to play football, not money.
The 26-year-old has suffered a dramatic fall from grace. Ten years ago last month he became the youngest player to represent Everton in Europe, coming on as a substitute against AZ Alkmaar aged 16 years and 284 days. Aphorism’s and soundbites followed that he would be a future England captain as Rodwell’s development was accelerated for both club and country.
However, today he sits a dejected figure at Sunderland. Having appeared just three times for the first team all season, and not at all under Chris Coleman - his name is mentioned by fans in response to Coleman’s claims he only wants players who are keen to perform for the club.
I have theorised for a while now that something was up with the Rodwell debacle.
Subsequently, the fact that Rodwell, his agent, and the club have been locked in negotiations over the cancellation of his contract comes as no surprise.
The news midweek was picked up by numerous outlets and journalists synonymous with the North East press. As a result, the player himself, and particularly his agents, have responded by coming out swinging.
The aim of this interview is to attempt to back the club into a corner in a “pay him or play him” message.
Quite frankly, his agent is playing a blinder - and credit is also due to Craig Hope in securing the exclusive. From the move to Manchester City and the subsequent transfer here with all the destructive clauses contained, to going out and doing this quite clearly against the club’s wishes - in Rodwell and his agent’s eyes either he gets a move elsewhere, or he gets his £5.5m over the remaining 18 months of his deal. Win-win.
If there is any time he will perform, it is now. It is clear Rodwell knows this window is quite possibly his last chance to salvage anything of his previous promise - this is literally his last chance saloon.
If he doesn’t take it, then that could be it for his dreams of Premier League or England glory. Furthermore, we desperately need a defensive midfielder right now with the injuries and suspension to Darron Gibson, Paddy McNair and Didier Ndong, and picking between him and Cattermole is quite literally a zero-sum game in terms of form.
In turn, Chris Coleman pretty much has two options: he could just cast him off and ignore him, but then it is almost sure he will see out that costly remaining 18 months, with a move unlikely impending for a player who will be seriously unfit. The second option, however, is to call Rodwell’s bluff.
Play him. Put him straight in the deep end. Either he has a blinder and starts putting a shift in, benefiting the club by either staying and finally performing, or he gets a transfer and raises funds for the club. If he doesn’t perform, then Rodwell will be backed into a corner and will be so hounded by the fans that he might just be persuaded into taking Sunderland’s offer. Call his bluff.
This is quite possibly out of the managers' hands, though, and maybe the decision to ostracise Rodwell has come from above Coleman. However, the club must not react by prolonging his isolation otherwise he will happily sit idly on his wage and collect that hefty £5.5m until his contract expires. If this is the case - which I personally doubt - the hierarchy must now reverse their decision and simply throw him in at the deep end. Let’s see what you’re made of Jack. I for one, hope you finally rediscover that early promise.
If I was Chris Coleman, I’d put him straight in, and quite frankly, we can’t really afford not to.
It is ridiculous for any fan to expect Rodwell to simply waive his wages in name of the club - it is a harsh reality, but at the end of the day the club is a business. How many of us would work for free just out of the love of the daily graft? No, of course not. But this whole debacle is just a little bit too convenient for Rodwell, and one cannot help but feel a little bit of déjà vu.
Just after Rodwell moved to Sunderland in 2014, he claimed;
To be honest, last season I was probably injured less than pretty much any other member of the Manchester City team. I think over the course of the whole season I was injured for about three weeks.
That might surprise quite a lot of people, because they just didn’t see my name on the team sheet and thought I must be injured. In the first season I did have a few injuries, but last season I was fit and available for 47 out of the 57 games. Those games come quick so I probably only missed about three weeks in total.
That’s crucial and the biggest thing for me now. For two seasons I’ve been in and out.
I could have stayed at Manchester City and fought for my place, but that would probably have meant being on the bench and being a bit-part player, I could have picked up trophies along the way and a lot of players might have settled for that, but I’ve had two years of that now and just couldn’t do it any more. I’m happy to be here.
Sounds familiar, right? Well, it’s pretty much exactly the same interview, just three years earlier. Clearly his agent is angling for a move right now, with a “come and get me” plea to the lower-half of the Premier League.
But it simply cannot be forgotten just how much Jack Rodwell has leeched from this club in the three-and-a-half years he has played in red and white. In yesterday’s interview with Hope, Rodwell even elucidates this amazing sentence:
But it’s not the fault of any footballer if a club decides to pay you a certain amount. I have worked from seven years old to get here; to then ask someone to just throw it away, that’s difficult.
Poor Jack, the victim pushed into a corner while he is forced to sign a £70,000 per-week contract by an evil football club and hungry agent. Ha’way man, we are not that naive.
This is a player whose heart quite clearly isn’t in it. Psychologically he appears shot due to numerous injuries, and he simply does not look like a man who enjoys playing football.
Above all else, it must be remembered by all at Sunderland and any prospective suitors that Rodwell has won just one of the 43 Premier League games he started for Sunderland, drawing 18 and losing 24. That one win? A victory over Crystal Palace in February 2017, an incredible 2.5 years after he joined the club.