JACK RODWELL will get a chance to reclaim a place in the Sunderland starting line-up in the quick-fire triple header against Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool.
Rodwell has been forced to play second fiddle to fellow summer signing Jordi Gomez over recent weeks, with the £10million capture an unused substitute in last Saturday’s stalemate at Leicester.
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet is calm over Rodwell’s contribution – believing the England international will ultimately prove to be a key figure in the Black Cats midfield after he shakes off the rust from two years of minimal involvement at former club Man City.
And with next week’s visit of City sandwiching meetings against Chelsea and Liverpool in the space of seven days, Poyet expects to recall Rodwell’s fresh legs to the starting XI and give him the chance to keep hold of his spot.
Poyet told the Echo: “We’re going to use him.
“He’s been listening more, watching more and when something important happens in a game, we’re showing him what he can do.
“I think we’re challenging Jack to take a very important role; to be the difference between a normal team and a better team.
“We need a bit of consistency for him to get there, so it’s a challenge.
“But I’m relaxed about it.
“He’s there on the training pitch every day and then it’s up to him.
“We didn’t want to go crazy with him in the beginning.
“He’s trained the last few weeks spot-on, no problem.
“It’s a matter of adapting to the position.
“Now we’ve got three games in a week against very small teams and we’ll need to use the squad well.
“He’ll probably start one of these games.”
Rodwell was by some distance Sunderland’s biggest summer buy after Poyet earmarked a new box-to-box midfielder as the key ingredient in his blueprint.
But the 23-year-old has so far struggled to justify that investment – the former Everton man on the bench for the last two games after missing the victory to Crystal Palace with a minor calf injury.
However, Poyet believes the Black Cats have primarily needed to work on Rodwell’s conditioning after being hampered by hamstring problems at Man City, while he has also needed to familiarise himself with a different playing field at Sunderland.
“The most important thing has been to keep him fit,” added Poyet.
“There were too many people who were worried about his fitness and he’s been fit all the time, apart from four days with his calf.
“It’s a massive change for him too.
“With all respect to the players we’ve got here, when you’re in the middle of the park for Manchester City, you’ve got a different role.
“Here, there’s a little bit more needed.”