The recent rise to national prominence of Ross Barkley has further highlighted the stilted progress of a former Academy graduate, Jack Rodwell.
Rodwell burst onto the Everton scene as an incredibly gifted 16-year-old and four years later, still only 20, made his England debut to wide acclaim. Rodwell looked destined for a long and distinguished international career, especially after producing an assured midfield performance in only his second cap, a 1-0 win over Sweden which earned him the man of the match award. Unfortunately for Rodwell, from almost that moment on, his career has been stalled by injury, with a succession of problems, particularly with his hamstrings, limiting him to just one further England cap in the last two years.
Tall, strong, fast and composed, Rodwell now 22, should be at the very top of his game. Unfortunately, he finds himself sat on the Manchester City bench without a single minute of first team action in the opening three games of the Premier League season. That in itself should act as a warning to any talented young footballer, the move to the top sides will come in time, but there is no need to rush, especially in an age when teams like Manchester City are more than happy to spend over £100m in a single summer in the pursuit of instantaneous success.
In fairness to Rodwell he did not push for a move away from Everton. When Manchester City approached the Toffees with a bid of £12m, it was difficult for the club to say no. At the time, Everton were in a situation where they needed to sell at least one player a year to keep the bank manager happy (hopefully those times have passed) and David Moyes was more than happy to sacrifice Rodwell, a player, who at the time was not guaranteed a place in the manager’s first team.
It is a sad indictment, that David Moyes was unable to accommodate a player of Rodwell’s undoubted class. Moyes, who often proclaimed that he was prepared to give “kids” a chance, decided time and time again to play experienced, but limited players in Rodwell’s place. Phil Neville, a thoroughly dedicated pro, but a limited midfielder, would often line up in the Everton engine room while Rodwell looked on from the substitutes bench. It appeared that Ross Barkley was travelling down a similar path, consistently overlooked, Barkley received minimal first team action until Roberto Martinez arrived to put his faith in Everton’s talented youth.
Even a number of Evertonians grew frustrated with Rodwell’s progress. He is the type of player who will never be fully appreciated in this country. Tagged as a “water carrier” or a “crab” due to his preference for a sideways pass, Rodwell was criticised for choosing the simple ball, rather than using his immense power and strength to surge forward. Maybe it was his lack of first team opportunities, or a willingness to conform to the manager’s conservative wishes that limited Rodwell’s impact on a game. He certainly played with a lot more freedom in his three appearances for the national side, than he ever did for Everton.
It is rather ironic, that Rodwell would now fit perfectly into the new system Roberto Martinez is trying to employ at Everton. He would be centre stage, patrolling the midfield, playing it simple and keeping Everton ticking. Maybe one day, he will be back at Goodison Park and taking on his rightful position alongside Barkley in a young and talented Everton midfield.