Midfielder Jack Rodwell cautiously optimistic about upturn in Sunderland form
Jack Rodwell is rightly wary of any grandiose predictions about turning a corner with his Sunderland form.
There have been too many false dawns from Rodwell over two distinctly underwhelming years since his £10million move from Manchester City for that.
But there has undoubtedly been more encouragement from Rodwell in the last three games since being recalled to the starting XI, and enough to suggest that he can contribute to Sunderland’s survival bid after moving ahead of Lee Cattermole and Seb Larsson in the pecking order.
The England international’s self-belief has begun to build since being handed that vote of confidence by Sam Allardyce; confidence in his own body being able to sustain the rigours of Premier League football as much as what he can contribute with the ball at his feet.
The ever-present fear of suffering yet another injury has been Rodwell’s biggest issue after being a regular visitor to the treatment table ever since leaving Everton in the summer of 2012.
“I’m back in the team and I feel a lot fitter,” he said.
“Hopefully, I can get more games under my belt between now and the end of the season, and you’ll see the best of me. I’m playing a lot better now and I feel sharper and fitter.
“For going on three years, I’ve had niggling, recurring injuries. That can definitely have an effect on you mentally.
“If I’m not feeling 100 per cent, it will affect me.
“Now I’m at a point where I’m working really hard and feel 100 per cent confidence in my body. That’s good for me, to go on the pitch knowing that.
“I just feel freer. I feel like I can get up and down. Sometimes, I didn’t feel that in the past.
“Sometimes, I felt little niggling injuries as I was playing.
“You don’t want to make that extra 20-yard run sometimes when you feel like that.
“I feel like I can be more aggressive now and make that extra sprint. In the past, I’ve not always been able to.”
Today’s crunch encounter against mid-table West Bromwich Albion is the first of two back-to-back home games for Sunderland, with league leaders Leicester City visiting the Stadium of Light next weekend.
Rodwell expects them both to be pivotal stages in Sunderland’s hopes of remaining in the Premier League, with the 25-year-old agreeing with manager Allardyce that the Black Cats require four wins from the final eight games if they are to survive.
“We’ve got eight games left now and I think it’s a minimum of four wins that we need,” he added.
“There’s no better game to get the first of those than West Brom at home, when we’re in a run of good performances, although not necessarily results.
“The next two games are at home, and that’s massive. If we can pick up six points from that – and I don’t see why we can’t – that gives us such an edge going into the last six games of the season.
“Because there’s so much pressure on it, you just learn to deal with it day by day.
“You can’t really look past that day. In previous seasons, you’d be booking your holiday now. You wouldn’t be as bothered.
“Now, you have to focus 100 per cent on every day in training – that’s all you can do really.”