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Jack Rodwell and the Italian bench

Monday 28th October 2019
Rome was once the centre of civilisation, England the boondocks. How did the Eternal City become a scrap heap for unwanted Premier Leaguers?
Rome was once the centre of civilisation, England the boondocks. How did the Eternal City become a scrap heap for unwanted Premier Leaguers?

Background image: Marco Pomella

In the early 2010s, Jack Rodwell was a name circulating around the Everton camp. Here was a youngster with the potential to help Everton craft themselves into a top club. Just over a hundred games later, J-Rod was a firm favourite at Goodison Park, a dust bunny to be hoovered up by the Manchester City talent vacuum. He served two purposes at the Etihad. First, he helped them reach their homegrown quota. Second, he couldn’t play against them anymore. Playing for them was almost entirely out of the question. When his match-fitness dipped and development stalled sufficiently, he was sold to Sunderland after 16 appearances in two seasons.

Poor work ethic

While the Black Cats remained in the Premier League, Rodwell contributed.  When they crossed the relegation path into the Championship, the once ripening Rodwell soured into bitter citrus at the bottom of the shelf.

Rodwell took an unusual stance when Sunderland sank to the second tier. Altogether, the team were not good enough to avoid the drop but the three-time England international took no responsibility for returning them to the top flight. He consistently made himself unavailable. Manager Chris Coleman went on record to say he didn’t know the player's mental capacity. Questions about work ethic were subsequently raised. Willing to collect his lucrative wages while giving the North-East side absolutely no value, Rodwell made two appearances in 2017/18. His contract was cancelled.

Blackburn picked him up on a free transfer for the 2018/19 season. In 23 appearances, including one in Premier League 2, he scored a single goal. When Rodwell played hardball over terms, the Rovers opted not to extend him. 

Joining the English exodus

Moving and working overseas requires effort. A lot of effort. In addition to remaining match fit, a professional must learn a new style, language, culture and adapt to new cuisine. Even if Roma are short in midfield, is a work-shy 28-year-old the answer?

Given his apparent lack of desire to play football, his primary occupation, will he even bother to pick up his 'Italian for beginners' textbook? Forget new manager Paulo Fonseca's system. If he cared, he might benefit from countryman Chris Smalling, currently on loan with the Giallorossi from Manchester United and, if reports are to be believed, committed to staying in the Italian capital long-term.

Poor performances

Roma should not only assess Rodwell's relatively poor behavioural issues but his general performance. Serie A is home to Cristiano Ronaldo, Kalidou Koulibaly and Ciro Immobile. The Englishman is hardly in the same vein and has much to prove to be included in their ranks.

Embattled Roma boss Fonesca faces an injury crisis but the Southport-born midfielder is hardly the blueprint to carve out AS Roma’s future. Deployed as a centre-back at his last club, Blackburn Rovers, the former playmaker made relatively little impact. The Lancastrians finished 15th in the Championship. 

The current situation at Stadio Olimpico isn’t woeful but, given their target is to compete for the Scudetto and Juventus are seven points beyond them after nine rounds, it's hardly on track. Failure to qualify for the Champions League last year cost several jobs. This year will be no exception. Injuries or not, the top four is the expected destination. Sunday's 2-1 win over Milan closed the gap with fourth-place Napoli, who drew with SPAL, to a single point.

With Davide Zappacosta, Amadou Diawara and Bryan Cristante all suffering long-term injuries, the Portuguese needs more bodies. If they come with a bit of animation and the motivation to be a difference-maker, that would be nice too. In those terms, Jack Rodwell is a hard sell.

Football Fixtures
Warren Smith

Yokohama F•Marinos supporter. Seen it all in the J.League, relegation fights and being crowned champions. Play five-a-side, pretty good too. Once scored an overhead kick.

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