JACK RODWELL nods politely when faced with the inevitable line of questioning.
Were you right to move to Manchester City?
Do you regret going there?
Have those two years largely spent in the wilderness been a waste?
The well-mannered Rodwell knew the “what happened at City?” interrogation was coming, in the first chance the media have had to interview Sunderland’s £10million new signing.
It’s starkly reminiscent of the conversations reporters had with Adam Johnson two years ago when the Easington-born winger returned to the North East, albeit he had endured a far frostier end to his time at City under then boss Roberto Mancini.
In the summer of 2012, Rodwell was rightly classed as one the brightest prospects in the land; a midfielder coveted by all of the Premier League’s heavyweights, who looked destined to be at the heart of the England side for a generation.
Comparisons with Steven Gerrard were not mere hot air for the lad plying his trade across Stanley Park after making his Everton debut at 16 (ironically at the Stadium of Light, as Rodwell is keen to point out).
But the move to the Premier League champions hardly proved to be the stuff of dreams.
A tally of just 10 starts in all competitions - and for a club perennially fighting on multiple fronts - is a testament to the troubles Rodwell endured at the Etihad.
The injuries didn’t help. Persistent hamstring problems during his first season at City even prompted Rodwell to swap his sports car for a more practical model.
But for much of last season under Manuel Pellegrini, Rodwell simply wasn’t to the Chilean’s taste after the £30m signing of fellow midfielder Ferdandinho.
Rodwell was confined to the fringes; unable to earn sufficient first-team opportunities to rubbish those increasingly weighty question marks over his fitness.
It’s clear why a move to the Stadium of Light, where Rodwell will be the box-to-box midfielder that Gus Poyet was desperate to sign, was so appealing.
Yet there is no hint of remorse or regret from Rodwell at those “lost” two years at City.
“Man City was an opportunity that came knocking and I couldn’t turn it down,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say it was a wasted two years.
“Mancini signed me and I was playing under him apart from the injuries.
“Every time I was fit I was playing, but last year the new manager came in and I wasn’t playing as much. He brought in a few of his own players so it was a bit more difficult.
“But that’s football, you know. You make moves, sometimes they work out and sometimes they don’t.
“I wouldn’t change it for the world.
“Obviously there was a bit of injury here and there and not playing. It was frustrating but it was a good experience.
“I played with top players but I am here now and ready to play.
“I am here now to start a new chapter. I want to kick on again.”
Barring a recurrence of his injury problems, Rodwell is unlikely to be either bench-warming or watching from the stands at Sunderland.
He got a taste of that just 24 hours after training with his new team-mates for the first time, when he was thrown straight into the fray for Thursday night’s friendly against Real Betis.
Rodwell is likely to feature again in today’s final pre-season outing with Udinese, as he boosts his match fitness for the Premier League opener at West Brom in seven days.
Every minute is welcome for Rodwell.
He played a half in each of City’s friendlies against Dundee and Hearts midway through last month, but his only subsequent outing for the champions was as a late substitute in a 5-1 romp over AC Milan, during their tour of the US.
“I’ve not done a lot of training over the summer with all this stuff going on and being in America with Man City,” said Rodwell.
“It was good to get minutes under my belt and hopefully I can get a few more today.”
It is not just Rodwell’s club career which he wants to get back on track.
His sparse appearances for City cost him his place in Roy Hodgson’s plans and he admits watching England’s participation in the summer’s World Cup was a painful experience.
A recall to the England set-up was a key factor in Rodwell’s decision to leave City and he even boasts ambitious hopes of being included in Hodgson’s squad for next month’s international double header against Norway and Switzerland.
Rodwell added: “Playing for England is the ultimate in my eyes. To put the Three Lions jersey on is the next level for me.
“It was hard watching the World Cup. You’re watching it and it’s bitter-sweet.
“Hopefully with a few games under my belt and playing well, there’s a squad coming up soon and that’s my aim.
“I just want to play as much as I can here and hopefully get back in the England team because I feel that’s where I belong – I feel I can play at that level.
“I was watching the World Cup and wanted to be there but at the same time I was supporting them. It was weird though.
“Hopefully this season, playing well, I can get back in there.”