David Moyes held nothing back in giving Jack Rodwell some tough love
A Premier League victory at last in his 38th start for Sunderland was not enough to save him from the drug-testers, nor the hamstring injury which curtailed his afternoon.
Yet there was no disguising the delight among his teammates for a player who had trudged off a near season’s worth of games without a win.
Fellow midfielder Seb Larsson smiled knowingly when Rodwell’s curse was mentioned to him. “We’ll go on a run of winning now with him consistently now,” joked Larsson.
Curse or no curse, Sunderland boss David Moyes revealed he had challenged the 25-year-old for whom Sunderland paid Manchester City £10m three seasons ago to make the transition from bit part to impact player.
Jack Rodwell finally won a game for Sunderland in his 38th start
Moyes said: “Today I said to him, ‘It’s about time you started to take a grip of games. You’re going to have to stand up. You’re not a boy any more. Get over it, start getting on it. Isn’t it time you started to show you are a top player?’
“I wasn’t losing patience with him, but I know Jack and I felt it was about time to say it. This was a big game for us and we knew what we were going to have to deal with. I told Jack, ‘When you’re on the ball, are you going to make some passes?’
“We were on at him to make sure he kept getting the ball and trying to make us play. He’s been playing well recently. He’s comfortable on the ball and we want him to take more responsibility and help make us play. He did that today.”
It was Moyes who gave Rodwell his first-team debut as a 17-year-old at Everton and he still sees the ability now that he witnessed in the callow teenager.
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“Jack can still achieve his potential. He’s got a different body now to do it,” said Moyes. “When he was really young he had great energy. He’s still got great energy but he is getting older so he has to know what to do with it.
“He has had terrible problems with injuries and I just hope he hasn’t got a serious hamstring injury because he’s only just come back. It will be a big blow if we lose him.”
Rodwell was one of 11 Sunderland players who grasped this extraordinary encounter at Selhurst Park. Even before Lamine Kone swept them ahead in the 10th minute, it was Moyes’ men who were showing invention.
By contrast, Palace were shackled by a fear of playing at home, especially during five furious minutes before half-time when a tight game turned into a landslide.
First, Didier N’Dong strode forward to curl the ball inside the post. Then Jermain Defoe used his close control and nous to hold off Palace defenders to sweep Sunderland into an unassailable lead.
For Palace there were no excuses. Creditably, midfielder James McArthur, a rare bright light among the gloom, offered nothing but brutal honesty.
“It doesn’t matter who you are playing against or what people are expecting if you put in a performance like that today. You’re not going to beat anyone and that’s where we are right now after that performance,” he said.
“We need to lift ourselves fast, have a look at each other, have a look at ourselves and we can’t make excuses.
“It wasn’t acceptable. It doesn’t matter if it was a bad performance, a bad five minutes, whatever. It’s not acceptable at this football club and we need to demand more from each other.”