RR: So... Jim Rodwell. What do you think about his appointment as CEO of Sunderland?
CW: I’m quite surprised by the appointment. Whilst Jim Rodwell has vast experience of working for football clubs in the lower leagues, working his way from non-league clubs to Notts County before taking the job with Scunthorpe, his success in his respective roles has left a lot to be desired. He was brought in to Scunthorpe to do two things: Get them back in the Championship and to build a new stadium. Neither of these things have happened. The fact he’s been given the Sunderland role, to me, is very surprising.
RR: Rodwell was appointed at Scunthorpe back in 2015, and leaves them with the club currently in the bottom half of League Two - this after a decent run of finishes in League One (three in the top seven of the table). Do you think he’s been successful in his role?
CW: No. He hasn’t been successful in his role. That’s not up for debate. Like I said previously, he was brought in to do two things and he has failed to do both. In fairness, the club had three successful years in League One, in which they were close to being promoted. Although we’re not sure what Rodwell’s role was in bringing in players, they did find some diamonds in the dirt, such as Duane Holmes, Hakeeb Adelakun, Josh Morris, Conor Townsend and Murray Wallace.
RR: What sort of CEO is he? Is he hands on, or does he largely lurk in the background?
CW: Easy question. He lurks in the background. In the five years at the club, I could count on one hand how many times we heard him speak. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing for Sunderland. I know for a fact that Scunthorpe fans wanted to hear a lot more from him than we did.
RR: The Scunthorpe fans on social media didn’t seem particularly sad to see Rodwell go - why do you think that is?
CW: I think they weren’t sad to see him go because of what I said in my last answer. We never heard from him and we were not sure what he did. He was on a lot of money at the club, the highest earner on the pay roll, and we’re genuinely not sure what he did in his five years to improve the club.
RR: What is he like as a person - how have you found him to work with?
CW: I don’t recall speaking to Jim Rodwell much, mostly because we haven’t had the opportunity to do so. I can’t go into this too much, but the chairman recently spoke to this on record, so I will. Scunthorpe Live and the football club are not on the best terms, we are currently banned from covering games at Sands Venue Stadium because they wanted us to pay more money. But even before then, there was little relationship between ourselves and Rodwell.
RR: Rodwell arrives at Sunderland under strange circumstances, taking on a newly-created role at a time when the club is still apparently up for sale. Why do you think he left Scunthorpe to take on a job that might not necessarily be a particularly lengthy one?
CW: Quite simply, Sunderland are a much bigger football club. Whilst your club have struggled, in many aspects, for the last three or four years, Sunderland are still one of the biggest clubs in the country. Moving from Scunthorpe to Sunderland will always be a step up.
Also, Scunthorpe United are not exactly in a good position themselves. He’ll see this as an opportunity he could not turn down, and I don’t blame him for that. If I’m Rodwell, I would do the exact same thing - it’s the correct business decision. That’s how he’ll be thinking.
RR: Sunderland fans - myself included - have been asking for a long time to have someone in charge of the club day to day. How do you think he’ll handle the step up to running a bigger club?
CW: He was not a day-to-day kind of CEO at Scunthorpe United. So if he takes the same approach as he did working for the Iron with Sunderland, then you’re not going to get what you ask for. He absolutely could change his working approach to this job. He could be more prevalent, but we have seen nothing to suggest this from his time in his previous clubs.
RR: There are some Sunderland fans who are unconvinced by this appointment - what would you say to anyone who isn’t sure about Rodwell coming to our club?
CW: If you are one of those fans that is unconvinced by Rodwell’s appointment, then my apologies to you, because I have little to positive to say - from my experience of covering and supporting the club - on what he’s going to do for Sunderland.
Maybe your board wants a guy to work in the background? A guy who knows the lower leagues - Rodwell was the CEO of three Iron teams who could have been promoted back to the Championship. As previously mentioned though, we don’t know how much praise he deserves for this because we’re not actually sure what he does (or did) on a day-to-day basis.
The lads from Iron Bru, a fan channel, recently spoke to chairman Peter Swann on a podcast and basically had to ask what Rodwell’s role is, and didn’t really receive a straight answer.
He leaves the club in the worst position it has been in for over 15 years. However, whilst Sunderland fans should be sceptical, I will say that he deserves a chance to see what he’s able to do. He’s undoubtedly a smart man, and respected around the FA.
Whilst it’s definitely a strange appointment from the outside looking in, I guess you have to trust that Sunderland have a plan. And that plan includes Jim Rodwell.