Liverpool continue their march of dominance; not only are they running away with the domestic league but they are, of course, reigning European champions and were recently crowned World Club Champions.
This week the club signed a new bumper kit sponsorship deal with Nike to ensure the coffers remain plump for a few years yet.
Last weekend they fielded their third string team to embarrass fierce rivals Everton and dump them out of the cup. This team, peppered with enthusiastic, fearless and hugely talented youngsters, sent an ominous message to everyone that the club’s future is bright and they intend to rule the roost for some time yet.
Curtis Jones, Pedro Chirivella, Neco Williams, Harvey Elliott and Nat Phillips are just a handful of the names that we will no doubt be hearing much more of in future as their careers progress.
It was somewhat coincidental then that another former teenage prodigy came in from the cold and made a return to top flight action in the same competition last weekend in an attempt to resurrect his career.
So much promise, so little end result
Jack Rodwell came through Everton’s academy having joined them as a 7-year-old, making his first team debut aged 16. He excelled as the Toffees flourished under David Moyes’ shrewd management and were consistent top 10 finishers.
International recognition soon followed as he earned the first of his England caps in 2011. The world was his oyster yet it soon unravelled.
Manchester City came knocking and, tempted by the riches on offer, in 2012 he made the move. It was a classic example of how commercially driven clubs stockpile talent but don’t allow it to flourish as Rodwell only made 16 league appearances in two seasons. His bank balance grew yet he stagnated.
A calamitous time at Sunderland soon ensued, epitomised by two consecutive relegations, limited appearances and an ugly contract dispute where he refused to cut his earnings despite the clear strain on the club’s finances. His then manager, Chris Coleman, stated he did not know where the player was mentally. His contract was terminated in June 2018.
A shot at redemption
After a brief yet unmemorable stint with Championship club Blackburn Rovers, Rodwell signed for Premier League surprise package Sheffield United last week (Jan 3), making his debut against non-league AFC Fylde in the FA Cup on Sunday (Jan 5).
Sheffield United have been an absolute revelation this season: honest, robust and refreshing, playing such an innovative style of football that plaudits have come from the highest echelons in the guise of messers Klopp and Guardiola, amongst others.
Their manager, Chris Wilder, offers a no-nonsense approach to the game and his style of man management, not afraid to lambast players publicly whose performances may have been poor.
Maybe that is exactly what Rodwell needs, the guiding light of tough love from an authorative figure, much in the same way Moyes operated.
It seems United’s home, Bramall Lane, has become a bit of a last chance saloon for discarded talent. Ravel Morrison is another footballing orphan taken in by Wilder and his Sheffield family. Morrison exhibited exceptional promise at an early stage, prompting Sir Alex Ferguson of all people to label him as the best youngster he had ever worked with.
It hasn’t yet worked out, unfortunately, for Morrison although there is still hope and he did also take the field in the cup victory alongside Rodwell last week. Maybe as a pair they can find redemption. Rodwell certainly appears to think so.
“It’s a great club, the manager [Chris Wilder] is obviously brilliant and I feel like I’ve still got a point to prove at the highest level, so it ticked every box,” Rodwell told The Guardian.
“I feel like I’ve got more to offer at this level for sure,” he said. “I’m still capable of playing at the highest level.
“That remains my ambition. I’m very ambitious and nothing has changed there. I’ve got to be patient and show the right attitude, but I will be ready whenever I’m called upon.”
That chance may come sooner rather than later as his new club host West Ham United in the curtain raiser this weekend (3am Sat Jan 11 Thai time). Somewhat ironically, should he be involved, the match will re-unite him with his first manager Moyes who is now in charge at the London club for a second time.
Second chances are rare but maybe Rodwell can grasp his opportunity and serve as an example for other prodigious youngsters making their way in the game that humility and hard work will always yield more positive results than money and fame.