Sam Allardyce says a “consistent” Jack Rodwell would make a major difference to Sunderland’s survival hopes.
Rodwell is yet to start under Allardyce’s tenure, with a series of niggling injuries continuing to hamper the progress of a player who has struggled to convince since arriving in a £10million move from Manchester City 18 months ago.
If Jack plays how we know he can on a consistent basis, that will help a lotSam Allardyce
But the 24-year-old produced one of his better displays in a red and white shirt after being introduced as a first half substitute in last weekend’s defeat to Watford.
Allardyce and his coaching team have been working on Rodwell’s mental fragility stemming from such a lengthy history of injuries, with the England international also receiving specialist treatment in Germany earlier this month.
And with fellow midfielders Seb Larsson and Lee Cattermole both on the treatment table, Allardyce admits it would be a timely boost if Rodwell’s performance against the Hornets proved to be a sign of things to come.
“I liked Jack Rodwell’s performance,” said Allardyce.
“It was like ‘come on Jack, where have you been?’
“If Jack plays how we know he can on a consistent basis, that will help a lot.”
Allardyce believes Rodwell’s Premier League experience could be particularly crucial over the hectic festive period, given fellow midfielders Yann M’Vila and Ola Toivonen are both facing their maiden seasons in English football.
The pair are used to benefiting from a winter break on the Continent, yet will now face seven games in four weeks - starting with Saturday’s trip to Chelsea.
“The ones who haven’t been here before are the ones who are still learning - the Ola’s, the Yann’s,” said Allardyce.
“They could have a dip over Christmas because they haven’t played like this before.
“So we have to use the squad as best we can.”
After his outing from the bench against Watford, Rodwell is in contention to start Saturday’s trip to Chelsea, with the reigning Premier League champions lying just three points above Sunderland in the table.
Chelsea’s defeat at Leicester on Monday night was their ninth of the season, although Jose Mourinho insists his side are NOT in a relegation battle.
And Rodwell believes it would be more of a surprise if Chelsea were relegated than if table-toppers Leicester go on to lift the Premier League title.
“With the squad they’ve got, the manager, you just don’t expect it,” he said.
“You always think it’s early. Yes, it’s early, but we’ve had 16 games now.
“For me, Chelsea being relegated would be a bigger shock, because Leicester have got some good players.”