Jack Rodwell has personified Sunderland’s painful pattern of one step forwards, two steps back, over the last 18 months.
There have been a handful of bright spots when Rodwell has threatened to justify his £10million price tag – August’s 1-1 draw against Swansea was one of them – yet on too many occasions, the midfielder has been distinctly underwhelming.
The debate continues to rage over whether Rodwell scuppered his progress by leaving boyhood club Everton at just 21 for the big money move to Manchester City, where he faded into the wilderness.
But Rodwell’s big problem has been – and continues to be – his fitness, invariably the hamstring in his left leg.
Rodwell’s presence in the side has either been disrupted by a brief lay-off, or he sub-consciously appears to be holding himself back, due to the nagging fear of suffering another visit to the treatment table.
The 24-year-old’s stints on the sidelines don’t last as long as they did at City, but they’re still as frequent.
In a bid to ease Rodwell’s woes, he travelled to Germany last week to see Bayern Munich doctor Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt – the specialist who treated, among others, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard and Usain Bolt.
During the course of four days, Rodwell received a series of injections, plus visited the resident chiropractor, with a suspicion that his hamstring troubles stem from a back problem.
“It’s been like this for me for the last couple of years,” said Rodwell.
“But you’ve just got to stay positive and keep working hard.
“A couple of Sunderland players had been to see him (Wohlfahrt) so the doc spoke to me about it and asked if it was something I wanted to do.
“It was a week to 10 day injury, but I’ve been getting these little niggles.
“In previous years – at Man City – these would be five-six week injuries; grade two tears, where you could hardly walk for the next few days.
“They’ve only been small in the last few years. I can feel a small stabbing pain when I’m sprinting.
“Then the next day I’ll feel better and they’ll scan it.
“The amount of injuries aren’t getting better, it’s just the length of them.
“We thought we could do what we’ve been doing and I’d probably have been back fit for the Arsenal game.
“Or we could go down another route so we try to prevent it.
“I’d been over in the past when I’d been at Everton and a couple of players said it worked for them.
“He’s got a chiropractor over there, I saw him and he corrected a lot of things.
“We’re working on everything. It’s only a week out of my life and I’m feeling good now.”
Rodwell only returned from Germany on Friday, but injuries to fellow central midfielders Lee Cattermole and Seb Larsson pressed him into action as a substitute for the weekend’s clash at Arsenal.
“I went to Germany on Monday, flew in Friday morning and wasn’t expecting to travel to Arsenal,” he said.
“I was in the gym, but then Catts got injured and I was included in the squad.
“I’ve featured in a few games, but it was great to come on against Arsenal. I wasn’t expecting it.
“You never want to see your team-mates get injured, but there’s obviously opportunities now to get into the team.”
That was Rodwell’s third appearance under Sam Allardyce’s tenure, yet all have come as a substitute when he was making his way back from injuries.
That inability to make a positive impression on the new Sunderland boss has been painful to Rodwell, who realises the magnitude of this season for him after an underwhelming maiden campaign on Wearside last year.
But with almost two thirds of the season still to go, Rodwell hopes Allardyce can help him thrive again, particularly with Cattermole and Larsson on the sidelines.
“Within the first week of him being here, he had a one-on-one with everyone,” he added.
“Unfortunately, I’ve been pretty much out of action since he’s been here.
“But he’s got the place organised and I think that shows on the pitch.
“There’s still a lot of football to be played this season, and under Sam, there’s a great opportunity for me.”