David Moyes is looking to get the best out of Jack Rodwell as work continues to add to his midfield options.
Moyes gave Rodwell his first-team debut at Everton aged just 16 and he went on to become a much-coveted England international at Goodison Park.
But his career stalled after his move to Manchester City before eventually signing for Sunderland for £10million two years ago.
Rodwell played alongside John O’Shea in a patched-up midfield against his former side in Saturday’s 2-1 Premier League defeat, with Moyes the fourth Sunderland manager to attempt to turnaround the 25-year-old’s fortunes.
“I think Jack – I have said it a little bit with Adnan [Januzaj] too – needs to stop being potential,” said Moyes.
“He needs to really decide ‘am I driven now to become a midfield player and one of the best I can possibly be?’
“He has a lot of the attributes to be a good footballer – he needs to show it.
“He has had a few managers and a few clubs, but I know Jack and hopefully I can get the best out of him.”
The pair know each well from their Everton days, and Moyes admits he is using his time at Goodison Park as a template at Sunderland.
“It is good to be back, back doing what I think I should be doing,” added Moyes.
“It is going to be a tough job – it is not an easy job, Sunderland.
“But I am using Everton as my guide, how we got in young boys, we brought in the likes of Tim Cahill.
“We probably can’t go and sign the top players. I have to build a team and hopefully that will give us a chance in the future.”
Moyes – who has so far signed Papy Djilobodji, Donald Love, Paddy McNair and Januzaj – wouldn’t be drawn on how many further signings he is targeting.
“How many might be quite a few, but the truth is I probably won’t be able to do that. I need some more players, though, definitely,” added Moyes.
“It is a tough job, but we don’t want to make it any tougher.
“If I put a figure on it then, if I get one, people are disappointed.”
Midfield is an area that needs strengthening quickly though, with Jan Kirchhoff, Seb Larsson and Lee Cattermole all out injured and work ongoing to sign Yann M’Vila.
Injuries forced him to play 35-year-old captain O’Shea in an unfamiliar holding midfield role.
“I’d like to say it’s a one-off because for me to take the club forward it can’t be with John O’Shea as a central midfield player,” said Moyes.
“But what we had was injuries to big Kirch, Seb Larsson, it looks as though Lee Cattermole might need a hernia operation, so the ones who’d be considered midfield players are nearly all out.
“It was great that he did it and I didn’t have any worries because of his experience and the type of guy that he is.
“If he made mistakes or he didn’t quite get there, well that happens when you get a bit older.
“I thought he did a great job for the team, but it is one area we’re going to have to strengthen in.”
Sunderland fell behind to a fourth-minute Sergio Aguero penalty but struck back midway through the second half thanks to Jermain Defoe’s first goal of the campaign.
A late Paddy McNair own goal scuppered any hopes of a well-earned point, but Moyes was pleased with his side’s display.
He added: “They were resilient and stuck to their task, asking them to do jobs they wouldn’t normally do.
“We limited them to a few chances. That was good.
“What I want to do is to come here and beat them. But it takes time to build a team to be able to do that.”