Does ex-Everton, England and Manchester City man Jack Rodwell have what it takes to play centre back for Sunderland?

Sunderland's Jack Rodwell.
Sunderland's Jack Rodwell.
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Jack Rodwell could have been forgiven for taking a moment to reflect during the Checkatrade Trophy draw with fourth tier Grimsby Town at Blundell Park - just how has it come to this?

Playing in front of a crowd of just 248, which included seven Sunderland fans in the away end, the former Everton, Manchester City and England midfielder is attempting to revive his floundering career by turning himself into a centre-back.

This was the third time Rodwell, the club’s highest earner on £60,000 a week, has featured at centre-half for the second-string.

Grimsby boss Russell Slade made 11 changes for the dead-rubber match to see who finished bottom of the group. Sunderland as it turned out.

Rodwell looked comfortable enough in his new role, the 26-year-old calm and composed and comfortable on the ball, looking to spread the play and play out from the back.

He doesn’t do this enough in midfield but with more time, Rodwell was able to spot a runner and pick a pass. A steady enough defensive display against a fourth tier second-string outfit.

But this was hardly a barometer to judge how Rodwell would fare against the best strikers the Championship has to offer.

Lamine Kone’s knee injury will keep the Ivory Coast international out of the Sunderland side for up to 10 weeks, a chance then for someone to compete with John O’Shea, Tyias Browning and Marc Wilson for a place at centre back.

Will it be Rodwell? Does he have the strength, tactical awareness and nous to play there?

You’d be a brave manager to throw him into the Championship relegation dogfight at centre-half. Though, given Sunderland’s current record of conceding two goals a game, some would argue he couldn’t do any worse.

The final Checkatrade Trophy game was competitive enough and Elliott Dickman’s side - which also included FA Cup winner Callum McManaman as he looked to build his fitness - ran out 7-6 winners on penalties after it ended 1-1.

“I thought Jack and Callum both did well,” reflected Dickman. “Jack has always done well when he has been in our squad.

“He is an old head, talks a lot around the changing room and out on the pitch and gives the younger players a lot of good information.

“He is a experienced player. Callum was really good first half, he was a threat but didn’t get the break in the final third.

“You can see he has good ability, especially when the ball is at his feet.”

On Rodwell’s future at centre-back, Dickman added: “It is like Simon Grayson said, they had a discussion about it, it was something suggested before the Doncaster game.

“He has had an opportunity to play three games there now, the three games he has played there he has been terrific.

“He is very professional. That is all we can ask with this group of players.”

It says a great deal, though, about Rodwell’s fall from grace that even at this level, while he played well, he didn’t stand out.

Rodwell wasn’t even Sunderland’s best defender.

That accolade fell to Under-23 skipper Thomas Beadling, who stood out at the back for the Black Cats.

His distribution in a mature performance was excellent, powerful and commanding in the air, winning his headers and he was vocal throughout.

Yet to make a first team appearance and with O’Shea, Kone, Browning and Wilson ahead of him, Beadling’s chances of breaking in this season are slim.

And now Beadling finds himself battling with Rodwell for a place at centre-half.

Beadling, 21, has his best years ahead of him but for Rodwell, this is now last chance saloon territory on Wearside and he is yet to convince his future lies at centre-back.