Cats Eye View: Is it time for Jack Rodwell to shine for Sunderland, at last?

Jack Rodwell takes possession against Watford on Saturday
Jack Rodwell takes possession against Watford on Saturday
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Just 19 minutes into Sunderland’s game with Watford and Sam Allardyce had seen enough.

With the Black Cats battling relegation, every minute counts.

Jack Rodwell was summoned from the subs bench to take the place of DeAndre Yedlin, with Sunderland switching to a flat-back four against the dangerous Hornets.

Truth be told, the substitution and tactical switch could have been made even earlier.

Sunderland were being torn to shreds and were lucky to be just 1-0 down, a combination of the post and some last-ditch defending keeping the scoreline down.

They were being outworked, outplayed and outfought.

Allardyce was, at least, quick to admit his tactics weren’t working. Ultimately they were made to pay, with Watford scoring the winner after just four minutes.

Sunderland needed more control in midfield, to maintain possession and press Watford back.

And 24-year-old Rodwell was tasked with doing just that.

Rodwell has done little to justify the £10million financial outlay forked out by the Black Cats when they brought the former England man to the North East from Manchester City.

He has been as inconsistent as Sunderland have been, not helped by a series of niggling injuries.

But perhaps now is the time for Rodwell to shine.

God knows, Sunderland could do with him recapturing the early promise from his Everton days when he was tipped for the top.

Ola Toivonen is doing little to show he is worthy of a prolonged run in the first team.

The Swede impressed at Arsenal, his best performance of the season, but he was back to being anonymous in the middle against high-flying Watford.

Player of the season Yann M’Vila can’t be expected to carry the side every game.

He needs help in central midfield.

With Seb Larsson and Lee Cattermole suffering from ongoing injury concerns, Rodwell needs to step up to the plate.

Sunderland were woeful in the opening 30 minutes against Watford, ropey at the back, misplaced passes in midfield and poor finishing up front.

The performance improved after the break, with the back four looking more comfortable against Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney, playing slightly deeper, while sub Jermain Defoe had three good chances to level late on.

Rodwell played his part in the improved performance.

He showed some nice touches, produced some clever turns and put in one crunching tackle early on.

His shooting needs to improve though, one powerful shot was well saved at the start of the second half but he saw three other ‘attempts’ from a good position sail high over the crossbar.

Despite the defeat, Rodwell was one of the bright spots for Allardyce, winning the ball and keeping play moving.

His manager was impressed and, like all Sunderland supporters, Allardyce simply wants to see him produce similar performances on a much more consistent basis.

Is he up to it? Is his left hamstring up to it?

Only time will tell on that front, with his injury record an ongoing concern.

In the build-up to the visit of Watford, Rodwell revealed he had travelled to Germany to see specialist Bayern Munich doctor Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt.

A course of injections and a visit to the chiropractor followed before sub appearances against Arsenal and Watford.

With Cattermole and Larsson struggling for fitness and Toivonen for form, there is a clear opportunity for Rodwell.

And with daunting fixtures against Chelsea and Manchester City away and Liverpool at home, Rodwell has a chance to show he still has what it takes to perform at the top level.

He recently told the Echo: “There’s still a lot of football to be played this season, and under Sam, there’s a great opportunity for me.”

Can he take it?

He is still only 24, and if he can sort his fitness issues and release the shackles, then Rodwell can still be a major player for Sunderland.

Rodwell has only managed five starts this term in the league and cup competitions.

But a sixth start – and his first under Allardyce – beckons at Stamford Bridge.