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LOST: Sunderland midfielder JACK RODW£LL, missing from the Stadium of Light since September 2017

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“Last seen at Gateshead Metrocentre hanging round the teddy pickers. Responds to the sound of folding cash.”

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Sunderland’s hard-done-to supporters have been famed over the years for their unique brand of gallows humour that tends to arise when we’re up against it, and with things most certainly going against us at the moment it’s nice to be able to forget the reality of our situation every once in a while and just have a bit of a laugh at our own expense.

And with the club about to enter what is undoubtedly the darkest period in its history, one fan in attendance at yesterday evening’s game against Norwich City did just that, with posters alerting people to the fact that Jack Rodwell seems to have gone missing found placed around the concourse areas of the Stadium of Light.

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Rodwell - who, in an interview with the Daily Mail in January, proclaimed that he still harbours hopes of making it back to the England squad as a central defender - hasn’t played for Sunderland’s first team in the league since appearing off the bench against Hull back in September.

Quite what is going on with the former Everton man is a complete mystery, and whether or not he truly feels he can still have a reasonable career in the professional game is entirely up for debate.

Having had a trial with Vitesse Arnhem lined up during the transfer window it was promptly cancelled due to what the Dutch club called ‘administrative issues’, and in his appearance on the Roker Rapport Podcast a few weeks back notable national sports journalist George Caulkin claimed that the thrice-capped former England international had turned down a move to the MLS earlier in the year.

As Roker Report revealed last month, Rodwell’s Sunderland contract WILL see him receive a cut in wages upon the finalisation of the current season, and regardless of which league we find ourselves in he’ll see his £70,000-per-week deal slashed by around £30,000.

Even still, with a year remaining on his contract it’s difficult to see just who would be daft enough to take on Rodwell and his sizeable wage packet having witnessed the absolute farce that has ensued this season involving the player and Sunderland AFC.

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Ahead of yesterday’s game with Norwich, Chris Coleman spoke to the media about his plans for next season, and whilst not exclusively naming Rodwell he alluded to the fact that we’ll undoubtedly have the misfortune of dealing with his sheer presence to contend with when the summer comes around.

He said:

We know there’s one player next season who probably won’t even be playing for us (Rodwell), but that’s his problem and his loss, not ours.

It’s hard to imagine where Rodwell goes from here, really, and the big worry is that we’ll still end up saddled with him on our books in the third tier.

Wages of £40,000-per-week paid out to average players are meat and drink in the Premier League but in the third tier it’s relatively unprecedented - even more so in the case of players that aren’t even contributing in games, and instead are effectively being paid to stay at home, away from the rest of the players.

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It’s believed that Rodwell has been offered a severance of his contract on more than one occasion but in each case they’ve been rejected out of hand, with the player instead demanding that he receives the correct amount of money owed to him as a result of the contract he signed with the club back in 2014.

The average annual wage of a League One footballer in 2016 was reported at around £69,500 per year - which is about what Rodwell makes in just one week as a Sunderland player.

The best case scenario we could feasibly face is that Rodwell and the club come to an agreement and he walks away, free to re-start his career away from Wearside. The worst case, however, is that we’re not only lumbered with him for at least another year but we don’t find a new owner to replace Ellis Short and, as a result, our already swollen wage bill won’t have any where near the amount of wiggle room we need in order to overhaul our squad simply due to the fact that Rodwell is still our player.

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Some time has passed since the £10m-man’s interview in January with the Daily Mail and the subsequent fallout. One hopes, then, that in the months since Rodwell has grown something of a conscience, and has plans to up and leave Wearside as soon as he possibly can.

Despite the fact that it’s the Sunderland’s own fault for handing such a lucrative deal to him and he’s completely within his rights to sit and wait it out, Rodwell must surely consider the impact that the club’s plight will likely have on the local economy and the jobs of ordinary members of the public that work for the club.

In the event of relegation and the closure of sections of the Stadium of Light there is likely to be further redundancies introduced, and whilst Rodwell could quite happily sit tight until the summer of 2019 - earning himself around £2.1m in the process - it will be those people at the very bottom of the club’s totem pole that will feel the pinch most.

Hopefully common sense eventually prevails, and an end can be put to what has been a truly vile and miserable relationship between an over-paid footballer that has absolutely no intention of playing for us again and a perma-crisis club that, due to our sudden decline, simply cannot afford to pay for their mistakes from the past.