GUS POYET has made it his personal mission to ensure big money summer signing Jack Rodwell comes good in a Sunderland shirt.
Rodwell is yet to justify the £10m investment made by Sunderland at the start of the season after the Black Cats fought off competition from a host of Premier League rivals to land him from champions Manchester City.
Niggling injuries have not helped the midfielder, with a groin problem keeping him out of today’s trip to Manchester United, albeit the 23-year-old is due to return for Tuesday’s clash at Hull City.
But Rodwell still hasn’t rediscovered the form from his days at boyhood club Everton which made him one of the hottest prospects in the country.
That is a shortcoming Poyet is proactively looking to address after investing so heavily in the England international, signed with a view to being the key box-to-box midfielder in Sunderland’s ranks.
Poyet said: “I’m really looking forward to making sure it works (for him).
“It’s like a challenge personally.
“He’s one of my signings and I’m really trying hard for him for it to work out.
“But we need him fully fit, that’s the main thing.”
Sunderland always envisaged that Rodwell would take time to knock off the rust after just 10 starts in two years at Man City.
But Poyet has poured cold water on the idea that this season must now be considered a write-off for Rodwell.
With the Black Cats just three points above the drop zone prior to today’s games, Poyet says Sunderland need everyone to contribute to their survival bid.
“We need him now,” added Poyet.
“He had a great, great chance to play last weekend (against West Brom).
“It was a game that we knew how West Brom were going to play, but we needed presence and stature in there.
“Jack gives you a lot of that - getting in the box and trying to score goals.
“We need him this year.
“We have to make sure that when he’s coming back now, he’s coming back for the rest of the season, rather than just one game and then being out again.
“That’s a challenge.
“But we’re still getting to know the players and how they react to certain things.
“I’m not even thinking about next year. The only one I’m thinking about for next year is (Emanuele) Giaccherini.”