Jack Rodwell reflects on acrimonious end to Sunderland spell, Netflix controversy and why he felt like a 'scapegoat'
Jack Rodwell says he feels he was made a ‘scapegoat’ during his acrimonious final season on Wearside.
Rodwell this week signed a new contract with Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United, and was reflecting on his career so far during an appearance on the official Everton FC podcast.
The central midfielder was a major signing for the club in the summer of 2014 but struggled to make a consistent impact and as the club dropped into the Championship, he was the only player in the squad not to have a wage reduction written into his contract.
It became a source of major contention when he made few appearances in the following campaign as the club were again relegated.
Rodwell made just six appearances, three of which were in the EFL trophy.
His last appearance came in that competition in November 2017. Sunderland offered Rodwell the chance to walk away from his contract the following January, but it was not until the following summer that he reached an agreement with Stewart Donald to end his contract early, subsequently joining Blackburn Rovers.
During that Championship campaign, his last league appearance came in September, before manager Simon Grayson revealed Rodwell had told him he wished to move to centre-back.
It became a source of exasperation for Grayson’s successor, Chris Coleman, who regularly said Rodwell was not available to play.
The impasse reached a crescendo in the latter stages of the season when Coleman said Rodwell, then training with the U23s, was ‘not the answer’ and that he had ‘no idea’ where the midfielder was mentally.
“It wasn’t a good season for anyone but especially for me, I didn’t even kick a ball that season,” he said.
"Like you said, I feel like I got made a scapegoat without doing anything wrong really. I was ready to play but for whatever reason I wasn’t ever picked, things like that happen in football.
“I don’t really speak about it in the media, I could go on and on but I don’t really because it’s part and parcel of the game. I just get on with it and try to keep positive and don’t even really think about it.
“I could look back and say ‘this is how they treated me, this is what they did, this is how they were wrong about this’ but I know what happened and I know what type of person I am and that’s the main thing really, I just try and let my football do the talking.
“I just don’t think they were ever going to play me, it was behind the scenes decisions that were out of my control,” he added.
“I was just going about my business as normal, training every day as hard as I could. If I get picked or if I don’t get picked that’s not up to me.
“The reasons why I was told I wasn’t getting picked were other reasons that I don’t want to go into, no need to. I just turned up for training and if I wasn’t getting picked, I wasn’t getting picked.”
Rodwell’s story returned to prominence after the release of Sunderland ‘Til I Die season one, which focused on his absence and the club’s hopes to release him from his deal in that January window.
“They were everywhere, they were on the pitch, the were behind the scenes,” Rodwell said.
“It’s good, it’s good for fans and good for things like that to see things but as for players, I think most of us kind of wanted a little bit of our own space, the manager as well. It was one of those things.
“To be honest, it was a season for me where I wasn’t playing at all, a little bit of a low season for me in general. I was kind of out of the way a little bit from the dressing room, I didn’t really quite get to see it every day. It was one of them, you look back and it was a little bit off-putting to be honest.
“It’s a massive club, it’s a shame where they are really. I don’t think anyone really expects them to be in League One. Obviously they missed promotion this year in unfortunate circumstances with the virus and things like that.
“Like you said, it’s a massive club, massive fanbase, great stadium, it’s got the history, it’s got everything it needs to be a big club. It’s just unfortunate for the last few years that it has been on a bit of a downward slide.
“I’m sure they’ll bounce back soon, it might just take a couple more years to just cement themselves as a bit of a Championship team and then build from there really. Maybe two or three years you might see them back in the Premier League, you just don’t know do you?”
After initially signing Rodwell in January, Blades’ boss Wilder said his new addition had ‘ticked all the boxes’.
"I think there might be a club up in the North East, their supporters might chuckle over stuff at Jack Rodwell.
"There's two parts to that story by the way. I'm not a lover of fly-on-the-wall documentaries and they're always looking for a villain.
"But from my point of view that's history. All the boxes I needed to tick and Jack needed to tick, he has done.
"Hopefully we can get him going and Jack can get himself going."