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Just The Start For Jack

Andy Lewis, 9th November 2011 - 17:54

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Andy Lewis

Andy Lewis

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Andy is a digital media journalist at Everton, working for evertonfc.com and evertontv.

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The most pleasing aspect of Jack Rodwell’s first interview following his maiden England call-up came right at the end.

There was no disguising his exhilaration and rarely has a first-team player been so keen to sit down for the evertontv cameras.

But after talking at length about his and his family’s quite understandable and fulsome pride, he uttered the phrase: “There is more to come.”

Indeed, there is so much more to come from a boy whose talents have been cultivated at the school of science since the age of six.

When Rodwell made his debut amid the pomp and frenzy of the Blues’ rambunctious 2007/08 UEFA Cup escapade, his trademark grace was immediately apparent – and in stark contrast to the booze-sodden jigging of Everton supporters weaving around the Dutch terraces, rejoicing as their team cut a stylish swathe through the heart of the competition.

But it was the following season when, with injuries decimating David Moyes’ squad, and the Blues chasing glory in both league and cup that the cat really came out the bag.

His maturity belied his years, his passing ability shone through, his habit of popping up with goals was revealed and any notions of him being intrinsically defensive were well and truly banished.

Eminent journalists, notably the Daily Telegraph’s Henry Winter, were quick to extol his virtues and at that point, most would have predicted a full England call-up a lot sooner than the twilight months of 2011.

Yet if there is one reason for that delay – and lest we forget he is still only 20, yes, 20-years-old – then it is injury.

At the start of last season, with Steven Pienaar and Mikel Arteta both still at the club and rightly deserving of midfield berths, Moyes opted to use Rodwell on the right, shoehorning him into the side given that the case for him to play had reached its tipping point.

So somewhat ironically then it was playing on the right at Aston Villa that he picked up the first of a series of injuries that would characterise a niggly, bitty and ultimately  frustrating season for the Birkdale-born player.

He simply never got going.

That run of games he craved never materialised, and with the likes of Jack Wilshere, Tom Cleverly and Jordan Henderson all emerging, Rodwell’s voguish twinkle dimmed and his golden boy status was usurped by arguably less deserving contemporaries.

But while it must have been excruciating for him, Rodwell may reach the end of this season and look on it as a blessing in disguise, should his current upturn in fortunes continue to gather pace. 

It meant he was allowed to go to the European Under-21 Championships without fuss and play games – although not as many as he should have done following Stuart Pearce’s mind-boggling use of Michael Mancienne in midfield.

All the same it was time on the pitch and that was what Rodwell needed. A full pre-season was also a god-send, as were further Under-21 run-outs in the early part of this season.

Those games, interwoven with regular club starts, are the reason he is now catching up and beginning to steely, game-worn and seasoned.

His improvement has been incremental. His confidence, strength, fitness, tackling, passing and positional sense are all improving game by game.

It is not rocket science. A sustained run of games in his favoured position is all he wanted and all he needed – and look where it has got him.

Few distinguished themselves at Newcastle last week, but Rodwell did, and he deserves immense credit for stepping up since Arteta’s departure and for being brave enough to accept the extra responsibility.

Make no mistake, the 20-year-old is still some way off the finished article and still some way off his best - yet that is what is so encouraging.

His form this season arguably isn't even the best we have seen from him in an Everton shirt. That isn’t a negative. That is a massive, glorious, resplendent plus.

With luck on his side and a first full, uninterrupted season as a professional in the bank, who knows the levels he can reach by May next year. 

As he calmly asserted at the end of his interview this week – the best is yet to come – and for Evertonians wanting to look on the bright side, that should be right at the top of their list.

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