Jack Rodwell wants to silence the doubters next season – 12 months after his £10million arrival at Sunderland.
Rodwell was the big-money acquisition from Sunderland’s spending spree last summer, yet the midfielder only sporadically lived up to that price tag during an injury-hit first campaign at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland head coach Dick Advocaat has spoken with Rodwell and challenged him to get back to the form he showed at boyhood club Everton, which saw him force his way into the England set-up.
And while Rodwell himself isn’t suffering from a crisis of self-doubt, he accept that he faces a pivotal campaign ahead of him to prove his credentials after his career came to a stand-still at former club Manchester City.
Rodwell said: “It’s a massive season for me and I want to be flying come the first game.
“Yes, I definitely feel I have something to prove – not to myself, but to people who don’t think I can do it.
“I believe in myself a million per cent. I know what I can do.
“But I feel like there’s still a few doubters out there.
“It does bring a bit of extra pressure coming with a big price tag, but prior to last season, I didn’t play any football for two years.
“I was playing a bit of catch-up last season and there were a few injuries which made it tough.
“This season is going to be a big one for me.”
A full pre-season should benefit Rodwell in his bid to rid himself of the niggling injuries which plagued him last time around after joining Sunderland from Man City midway through their friendly programme.
And the 24-year-old got 90 minutes under his belt in yesterday’s 1-0 defeat to Sacramento Republic here in North America, albeit he spent the second half out of position at left-back.
“Last year, pre-season was all a bit disrupted – it was half with City and half with Sunderland,” he said.
“I didn’t really get that continuity.
“It’s massively important for every player to get a good pre-season so they can hit the ground running in the first game of the season.”
Even becoming a father has not distracted Rodwell from his pre-season goals after he missed Sunderland’s first friendly against Darlington 1883 last week due to his partner giving birth.
“I only got a couple of days with the little one and then had to come here, so duty calls!” he added.
“I had to come away and do my job.
“It was the night before the Darlington game, so I didn’t get any sleep.
“I contemplated playing in the match, but I knew it wasn’t possible so I had one day at home with the little one.
“It’s been a whirlwind really.”