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What The Papers Say - 16 September

by Matthew Gamble @efc_mattgamble

The views on this page are taken from the local and national media and do not necessarily reflect the views of Everton.

Liverpool Echo

 

 

FROM star-struck performer to tough-talking mentor - it's fitting that Everton FC midfielder Jack Rodwell was promoted during a team-bonding X-Factor competition on recent England U-21 duty.

The 20-year-old has come a long way from the nervous debutante who first appeared in a royal blue shirt against AZ in Alkmaar in the Uefa Cup before he was legally old enough to drive.

Then aged 16, Rodwell did enough to suggest he could be a star in the making - and built upon that reputation until it began to weigh too heavily upon him.

If his memorable solo goal against Manchester United in 2009 was the equivalent of a debut single soaring to number one, since then the Birkdale-born midfielder has been mired in ‘difficult second album' territory.

A succession of untimely injuries, and functional but underwhelming displays have seen him struggle to nail down the first team place many assumed was a given.

But now, with Mikel Arteta's departure easing the personnel crush in the centre of midfield, Rodwell is poised to flourish.

Indeed, even before the Spaniard's departure he had started two of Everton's three games, and was impressive in the draw with Aston Villa on Saturday.

It's possible that Evertonians were glimpsing a long-term fixture in central midfield with Rodwell partnering Marouane Fellaini.

"I probably feel most comfortable in a central midfield pairing, although I can play in a three as well," says Rodwell, while relaxing after training at Finch Farm.

"I can play defensively or going forward - box to box. I enjoy getting up to support the attack, I think most people do, but I've played central defence all my life so if I'm asked to play defensively I can do that too.

"Felli did really well at the weekend, and hopefully if that's a partnership which everyone likes it could be the partnership for the season. There's a lot of good players in central midfield though, so I'll take nothing for granted."

Rodwell's performance against the Midlanders was particularly notable for him barking orders at his fellow midfielders. A player who has long been mature off the pitch was visibly maturing on it, undoubtedly helped by captaining England's U-21s in their last outing, a victory over Israel.

"If you get the captain's armband for any team it gives you a big confidence boost, and I think if you play in central midfield you've got to be vocal and pull people around in different positions," he says.

"It helps your game as well if you can get people to do work in certain areas, and it's the best way you can be. I've been here for quite a long time now and I've grown with confidence.

"I feel a bit more of a man now. I'm 20 years old now so I've got to be a man on the pitch. Skippering the under 21's was a big thing for me, a big honour."

Rodwell was joined in midfield for that game by club team-mate and Everton's latest academy darling, 17-year-old Ross Barkley.

"It was a bit surreal because obviously he's one of the lads here, and we keep in touch a lot," he says. "I've made my debut for the 21s and it can be daunting. It's a big step from the 19s to the 21s, everyone is watching. You've just got to reassure him everything is going to be fine, and tell him to play his normal game.

"There's a pressure in the sense of knowing that if you do well at that level, the next step up is the seniors. 21s is a man's game and 19's is still a boys' game. I think Ross will do really well. He came in and did well against Israel, and he has done well here this season.

"I'm sure he'll be fine with the mental side of it, he's got the backing of everyone here."

Rodwell picked up the captaincy from friend, and fellow ‘X Factor' judge, Liverpool's Jordan Henderson, 21, a player he hopes to face in next month's Merseyside derby. Me and Henderson get on," he says.

"There's a bit of friendly banter because we're at rival clubs. He's a good lad and he's made a good move to Liverpool, so hats off to him, I hope he does well.

"The derby will be an exciting game for me. Hopefully I'll play and be going head to head with Jordan. We're both young and team mates in the same side so it will be a challenge.

"It seems a long time ago now since I made my debut but I feel like I've come on a long way, and I'm still developing and not even 21 yet. Hopefully I can keep improving."

Rodwell is encouraged by Everton's start to the season, which he points out is normally "much worse", and hopes the Blues are rewarded if they control tomorrow's clash with Wigan in the way they largely commanded Villa.

"You can dominate a game, and we did that against Villa," he says. "We've had a look at the stats and we had a lot more shots, crosses and pretty much dominated every area but the stats are unimportant because we didn't win. It was the reverse at Blackburn. It evens itself out over the course of the season.

"The home support at the weekend was really good, and that really picked us up. I'm pleased Wigan is a home game.

"In the past their main threat was N'Zogbia but he's gone now. I think we're a different side from last year too, I can't quite put my finger on what it is but I think we've got more resilience and with that home crowd behind us we'll do better than last year.

"It has to start with us the players as well. We have to show we're giving everything and that spurs the crowd on, so if we do that then we'll all be fine."

 

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