JACK RODWELL is being “pushed to the limit” by Sunderland’s coaching staff, to ensure he returns from the international break with a bang.
Rodwell began to pay back Sunderland’s £10million investment when he netted the equaliser against Manchester United on his Stadium of Light bow two-and-a-half weeks ago.
But the England international was clearly finding his feet again in his three outings prior to the Premier League’s breather after 11 months without starting a top flight game.
Poyet could have opted to introduce Rodwell gradually back into competitive action, with fellow new boy Jordi Gomez also at his disposal.
But the Sunderland boss believes that challenging Rodwell both on the pitch and on the training ground is beginning to see the 23-year-old regain his sharpness.
Poyet told the Echo: “Jack is showing more confidence, running and understanding things.
“We just need to keep pushing him to the limit.
“I know it’s a little bit unfair on Jordi, I’m not stupid.
“But for them to have competition, Jack needs to play.
“How long will that continue? That depends on Jack.”
Poyet sympathises with the task Rodwell has faced to get up to speed after the former Everton midfielder spent two years confined to a bit-part role at Manchester City.
The head coach believes his old position of midfield is the most unforgiving position on the park when it comes to acclimatising to the pace and power of the Premier League - a lesson he grasped from personal experience.
Poyet recalls his debut for Chelsea in the 1997 Charity Shield against Manchester United, when he faced an eye-opening introduction to English football after arriving from La Liga outfit Real Zaragoza.
“I always say, the most difficult thing here is for the midfielders because of the pace of the game,” added Poyet.
“You get caught in the middle; in two-minds of what to do.
“I always remember what Ruud Gullit (then Chelsea manager) said to me during my first game for Chelsea, at the old Wembley.
“I was running up and down, up and down, but the ball kept going past me.
“But Ruud just said to stop, stay in the middle and wait for the ball to come to you.
“I think it was a bit like that for Jack at the start, but you can see he’s getting better.”
We have launched a FREE football app covering Sunderland AFC, Newcastle United and Hartlepool United.
For all the latest news, gossip and match coverage straight to your mobile and tablet, download the Football Echo now from here: