Jack Rodwell EvertonGetty/Goal

Jack Rodwell: The Premier League's ultimate 'what might have been' story is a free agent once again

On Twitter, 132,000 people continue to follow Jack Rodwell, despite the fact the former Manchester City and England midfielder has not tweeted once since 2016.

This tells us a couple of things – firstly, how irrelevant Twitter followers really are as a measurement of fame or importance; and, secondly, it provides a timestamp as to exactly when most football fans stopped keeping track of Rodwell's career.

Five years ago, Rodwell was still featuring on a fairly regular basis in the Premier League for Sunderland, as they continued to just about keep their heads above water.

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However, one year on from the last tweet written by Rodwell – "Fans top drawer again today! Great support #safc", on May 15, 2016 – the Black Cats were relegated to the Championship.

Now sat in League One for the third straight year, Sunderland are a long way from the Premier League, and it feels like Rodwell is too – despite the fact that, up until the end of last season, he was signed to a top-flight club.

Rodwell's career decline has arguably become the Premier League's ultimate 'what might have been' tale. 

In November 2011, he made his senior debut for England in a 1-0 friendly win over Spain. Less than a year later, a £12 million ($15m) move to Man City followed.

However, in the subsequent seven seasons, Rodwell went on to claim an unwanted record for most Premier League games without a win, suffered relegation, and trialled unsuccessfully in MLS and at Roma.

Growing up an Everton fan, Rodwell joined the club at the age of seven and became their youngest player to compete in Europe when he made his debut at 16 in a UEFA Cup clash with AZ. 

Jack Rodwell David Moyes Everton debut GFXGetty/Goal

After establishing himself at Goodison Park, and breaking into the England squad, his move to Man City was premature, ill-advised and disrupted by injuries.

After making just five Premier League appearances during the 2013-14 season, he accepted a £10m ($13m) transfer to Sunderland as he went in search of regular game time, but struggled to impress at the Stadium of Light. 

Between 2013 and 2017, he went 39 league matches without a win – a record streak of 1370 days.

Rodwell became the poster boy of the Black Cats' financial carnage. The Netflix fly-on-the-wall documentary Sunderland Till I Die depicted the repeated attempts made by hapless executives to offload Rodwell and his £70,000-per-week salary.

Having been depicted as one of the villains of the piece, Rodwell was unsurprisingly irked by the perception that he was both greedy and lazy, unwilling to do anything at the club other than collect his hefty pay packet.

"I feel like I got made a scapegoat without doing anything wrong, really. I was ready to play but, for whatever reason, I wasn’t ever picked, things like that happen in football," he told the Everton FC podcast.

Rodwell was eventually released in June 2018. Following a spell with Blackburn in the Championship, he was a free agent again and had unsuccessful trials with New England Revolution and, rather surprisingly, Paulo Fonseca's Roma.

It was all a great shame. Rodwell, at his best, is a physically strong, athletic, tough-tackling player comfortable in defence and midfield.

Jack Rodwell Sunderland GFXGetty/Goal

And it was these attributes which earned him a shock Premier League return in December 2019, as Rodwell was signed by Sheffield United.

Blades boss Chris Wilder, who took a similar gamble on Manchester United academy graduate Ravel Morrison, felt that Rodwell, who was 28 at the time, could still deliver on his potential.

"He's a very, very talented player who should be playing in the Premier League regularly but, for one reason or another, he isn't," Wilder explained.

"He's got a really good attitude and it's basically him looking at us, and us looking at him, to see how healthy he is."

Unfortunately for Wilder, Rodwell and Sheffield United, it was another tale of woe.

The Blades were relegated in 2020-21, and the one-time future of the England team had played twice in 18 months, for a total of 73 minutes.

Injury struck again, while Covid-19 restrictions meant Rodwell could not leave the first-team bubble to gain valuable fitness with the U23s. He was a gamble, and had not paid off.

So once again, Rodwell is a free agent, looking for another club willing to take a risk on him and see if any sort of spark remains; whether he can recapture former glories.

Frankly, it seems more likely we'll see him tweet again before that happens.

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