While watching Sunderland’s recent fixtures, it seemed to me that there might possibly be just a morsel of disquiet among supporters. A modicum of unrest. A soupçon of discontent.
Feel free to disagree.
As Ellis Short and Martin Bain are unlikely to make a half-time appearance to soak up the warm wishes of the fans. The Aunt Sally de jour is the reformed workaholic Jack Rodwell.
This is hardly surprising. The lad joined three years ago, since when the common perception is that his main contribution has been to trot around the centre circle; occasionally breaking into a canter – but never a gallop.
Suffice to say that bellicose belief and passion are not his motif.
But why Rodwell in particular? Obviously he isn’t entirely to blame.
For example, he didn’t instruct the “tactic” of heaving the ball up to a relatively diminutive centre-forward to not score with.
Famously, Sunderland won only one game from his 44 starts prior to last night (and during that solitary victory he was substituted on 52 minutes). He also has a poor injury record. But the animus towards Rodwell has more to do with cold, hard cash.
He signed in 2014 for £10m from Manchester City where he had spent the previous two years – and was a flop.
The hope was that he could recapture the early promise he showed at Everton; and it should be said that no one demurred at the time.
Rodwell is on a reported £60,000 per week. If this is correct, then he has so far cost Sunderland approximately £20m.
This isn’t Rodwell’s fault. But nobody, not even the greediest and most mendacious agent, would even bother to pretend that this represents value for money. It’s just the way it is.
It gets worse. Owing to an incredibly inept piece of negotiation by SAFC when he signed, Rodwell’s contract – which still doesn’t expire for almost two years – did not contain a relegation clause.
So the 40 percent pay cut that the rest of the squad was subjected to did not apply to him (although a number of what’s left of the “ordinary” SAFC staff took a massive hit too).
Good will towards Jack Rodwell has all but evaporated. So, ignoring the possibility of a sudden and dramatically improved contribution on the pitch; how can he win hearts and minds?
The less charitable will say “leave.” But the transfer window is closed and a stampede for his services and an ensuing bidding war are not expected in January. Not on those wages.
The player and SAFC are mutually shackled.
He could, however, take some of the sting out of the situation by renegotiating his contract.
There is no disputing the contractual, legal correctness of his salary. The morality (and the stark possibility) of him lifting £15m in wages over five years is rather more difficult to accept.
A 40 percent cut for Rodwell would save his debt-ridden employers about £1.25m a year and he would still bank almost £2m annually to chuck on his existing pile.
His strong negotiating position could actually give him say-so over how to use the £1.25m.
He could even prove himself a decent, honourable young man. Imagine.
But I can already hear: “Would YOU ask for a drop in pay then?”
It would be polite to say that it’s an irrelevant question.
But I’m going to be impolite and say that it’s an incredibly stupid question.
A drop in pay for me, indeed for most people, would be problematic to say the least.
But would I take a salary decrease in Rodwell’s position?
That question is worth pondering and the answer is: “Yes. Like a shot.”
It would literally buy some respect; a rare commodity in Jack’s world these days.
So that’s my hippy-drippy advice to Jack Rodwell. It’s what I would like to see. A wish.
But I’m aware of the gargantuan difference between a wish and an expectation.
The astronomical odds against anyone in football requesting a pay cut in the name of moral wellbeing is something that Professor Brian Cox might grasp, but not me.