Is Jack Rodwell the man to inspire Sunderland?

Any plus points from Sunderland's goalless draw with Burnley?

Monday, 9th January 2017, 3:07 pm
Updated Wednesday, 11th January 2017, 3:09 am
Jack Rodwell competes against Burnley's Joey Barton in Saturday's FA Cup tie. Picture by Frank Reid

Not many. So few that they could probably be written down on the back of a fag box.

That’s a packet of 10, not 20! This was not a third-round tie to set the pulse racing.

The gate was low – the Stadium of Light was just over one third full – and the quality on the pitch was similarly at a reduced level.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

While it was not a classic, you could not say it was a pointless exercise.

* Javier Manquillo got a valuable 90 minutes under his belt.

* Jason Denayer produced a cracking display at centre-half.

* Donald Love showed his versatility in central midfield alongside Jack Rodwell.

* Jermain Defoe and Adnan Januzaj got a further chance to work on their front pairing.

But the biggest boost to come out of this drab third-round all-Premier tie had to be the form of Rodwell in the centre of the park. The 25-year-old was thrust into action last Monday against Liverpool when the squad was stretched to its limit.

His display was certainly encouraging and eyes were on him on Saturday when the Clarets came to Wearside.

And the £10million signing from Manchester City in 2014 built on that performance by being the team’s bright spark against Sean Dyche’s side.

Rodwell was the man to take the game to Burnley and one of the very few prepared to let fly against keeper Nick Pope.

He was wide with his left foot in the 11th minute after some good football from David Moyes’ sideand he had another pop 16 minutes later after the hosts showed patience in possession.

The former England midfielder also had a header on target, though it was easily collected by Pope.

Aside from a Seb Larsson free-kick straight at the keeper and a Januzaj shot, which Pope gathered at the second attempt, there was little else to have fans on the edge of their seats.

Rodwell was at it again after the break, linking up nicely with Defoe and forcing a spectacular save from Pope just before the hour.

Not surprisingly, given he is just back from a two-month absence after hamstring trouble, he ran out of steam.

But his contribution was a good one. Not only did he provide a spark in the middle of the park going forward, he did plenty of the ‘dirty work’ too.

Sunderland are in desperate straits on the injury/ unavailability front in midfield – Lee Cattermole and Jan Kirchhoff are out on long-term absences, Steven Pienaar is missing with calf trouble and Didier Ndong is at the Africa Cup of Nations.

At a time when Moyes needed a player to put up his hand/ step into the breach/ step up to the plate, however you want to describe it, Jack has done just that.

The key now is can he pull the strings against Stoke on Saturday and at West Brom the following weekend? That will be when Sunderland need him most.