By Greg Stobart
Jack Rodwell spoke optimistically this week when he declared his hope that he will return from his latest hamstring injury before the end of the month, but that will provide the midfielder with little comfort when he sits down to watch Manchester City take on his old club Everton on Saturday.
When the 22-year-old completed an initial £12 million switch between the clubs last summer, it was considered a good piece of business for City, the Premier League champions making a long-term investment by signing one of the most talented young players in the country.
Yet life at City has not gone according to plan for Rodwell as he has been hampered by a series of injury problems, failing to find any rhythm on the pitch on the few occasions that he has featured.
Roberto Mancini considers Rodwell a leading central defender of the future while many other observers believe his class on the ball means he will become an international class midfielder.
The move to City was supposed to elevate Rodwell to that top level but instead we are left asking questions about whether the England international’s injury struggles will prevent him ever fulfilling his potential.
Rodwell has made just eight Premier League appearances this season - four as a substitute - having suffered a groin injury before being struck by his latest bout of hamstring trouble in October.
It is not something new for the player, who struggled with a series of hamstring problems during his time at Everton.
In the past, it has been explained away as growing pains, but just how long will this hang over Rodwell’s career, preventing him from building up valuable experience? How will it effect his athleticism and speed over the ground? Could it even shorten his career?
There have been suggestions that Rodwell arrived at City in worse condition than Mancini expected and the club have pushed him to make a number of lifestyle changes to try to get around the problem.
He has changed his car and sits and sleeps with a specialised pillow to improve his posture, with hamstring injuries often associated with the back.
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But against Aston Villa at the start of the month, the problem struck again as he lasted just 25 minutes before being forced off.
Mancini has understandably expressed his concerns about Rodwell’s fitness and suggested that the player can expect the problems to continue for a while longer.
"I think it is impossible to resolve his problem after six or seven months because he's had this problem for five or six years and we need maybe more time," said Mancini after the Villa victory.
City may well be questioning why they signed a player with Rodwell's injury history last summer. So far the move has backfired spectacularly.
Not only have his brief appearances been indifferent but his injury problems all too predictable.
As City sit 12 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester United in second place in the Premier League, Rodwell's season has been in keeping with the club's disastrous transfer window last summer.
While Matija Nastasic has shone in central defence, Scott Sinclair has made just two league starts after arriving from Swansea while Javi Garcia has been underwhelming.
Director of football Txiki Begiristain is targeting he likes of Neymar, Radamel Falcao and Edinson Cavani as top class signings this summer to boost City's domestic and European ambitions.
But City’s hopes for Southport-born Rodwell are increasingly becoming just that. Hope.