A Different League’s England’s future stars series continues with Everton’s teenage prodigy, Jack Rodwell.
As former captain of the England Under-16s, with notable performances for the Under-21s, Rodwell is no stranger to the international set up, and at 18 years old there is a very good chance this young man will be considered for Fabio Capello’s squad for the 2010 World Cup.
The highly rated defensive midfielder produced some eye-catching performances last season at Goodison Park – most notably in the FA cup tie against rivals Liverpool – and his talent has not gone under the radar. It has been reported that both Arsenal and Manchester United were keen on acquiring Rodwell’s signature before he signed a new deal earlier this year, keeping him on Merseyside until 2014. Allegedly, when enquiring about the possibility of bringing Paul Scholes to Goodison, David Moyes was informed United were keen on Rodwell moving the other way – a move that would have no doubt been a fantastic acquisition for Alex Ferguson, but it failed to materialise.
Physically, the youngster not only possesses the strength needed in the holding role, but also the guile and agility to move past players with ease. Perhaps it is the demands of the defensive midfield role which have highlighted how talented this young man is, making 13 starting appearance last season. The physicality of the Premier League means that his is a position that requires not only technique and a strong physical presence, but also a cool head under pressure.
But it is the Evertonian’s recent performances for the England U-21s which have really impressed, further suggesting that, come 2010, Rodwell could be part of the senior England setup. It is a position which has been highly scrutinised over recent years, with the likes of Owen Hargreaves, Michael Carrick and Gareth Barry all attempting to fill the mantle. Hargreaves is regarded as being the strongest of the three in the role, but recent injury has left some believing the United player may never reach levels which he has shown he is capable of. Both Carrick and Barry have performed well in the role, but seem to lack some requirements the position demands. However with a player of Rodwell’s ability coming through the ranks, it would seem logical that a player with natural defensive qualities and a clear abundance of talent be considered for the position. An opportunity which may not have seemed so probable if the player hadn’t made advancement from the centre of defence into midfield under the guidance of Moyes, Rodwell himself recognises this: “It is only last season I played centre-mid, so I am still young to that position. I will grow and get better there. I like centre-half but I can play in midfield as well.”
Rodwell is also aware that this transition from defence to midfield has presented him with a real opportunity to break into the senior team: “Maybe there is a shortage of natural anchormen. At the moment there are a lot of good centre-halves in England – John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka – but not as many central midfielders which is an area you can work towards with the senior squad.”
Rodwell’s presence in South Africa is perhaps more likely than other gifted youngsters being touted for a World Cup call up, notably Arsenal’s left-footed prodigy Jack Wilshire and Manchester United’s gifted Danny Wellbeck. Both players Fabio Capello has alluded to as possibilities for the England squad this week. However, with Rodwell’s emergence in the Everton’s senior team at the end of last season, the likelihood is he will play a prominent role for the forthcoming season, pushing for a regular first team spot: “The targets are just to play in as many games as I can. I know the lads better, I just feel part of the set up. I think I’ve strengthened up a bit over the summer and feel a little bit quicker, so hopefully that will make me play better next season. The targets are just to play in as many games as I can.”
With the likes of Wayne Rooney, Victor Anichebe, James Vaughn and Dan Gosling, it is not only apparent that Moyes clearly has a talent for nurturing young players, but Rodwell’s appreciation and acknowledgement of this is clearly an indication in why the youngster recently penned a long term contract: “He’s been amazing. He’s a great gaffer to have – he’s helped me a lot because I’m young.” He is also fully aware that the international opportunities that are now being presented before him and his advancement into the senior team at such a young age have a lot to do with the faith shown in him by Moyes. “He puts his trust and faith into the youngsters as you’ve seen over the past years, which is good for me and good for the youngsters coming through at Everton.” It is also good for the England national team, and England fans alike – if he continues on his current course of progress and plays regularly for Everton this season, it is a certainty this young man will be heading to South Africa in 2010.