Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce says midfielder Jack Rodwell faces a fight to save his once-promising career as he struggles with injuries and loss of confidence at the Stadium of Light.
Rodwell was tipped for great things when he moved from Everton to Manchester City in 2012 but two years being surplus to requirements at the Etihad caused him to lose his way.
The 24-year-old spent last week in Germany in his latest bid to shrug off a series of injuries which have hampered his progress in the North-East, but Allardyce is hopeful he can regain some semblance of his earlier form.
Allardyce said: “Everyone is saying ‘what’s happened to Jack Rodwell?’ and it’s clear the number of niggling injuries he’s had and the two years at Manchester City have caused him to lose his focus and his confidence.
“I think we’ve got to rebuild that and the only way to rebuild it is to make sure we keep Jack fit and training every day and that when selected he hopefully finds that confidence again.
“Jack burst onto the scene with Everton at 17 years old but since he went to Manchester City he has not played as often as he would have liked and that was a big move that didn’t pay off.”
However Allardyce handed Rodwell a rare chance from the bench during the defeat at Arsenal last week and it almost paid off as he provided a fine cross for Patrick van Aanholt, who missed a good opportunity to equalise.
And Rodwell could figure again against Watford at the Stadium of Light on Saturday with Allardyce short of options due to Lee Cattermole’s absence with a recurrence of his back injury.
Allardyce knows the Watford game is crucial to continuing his side’s recent revival and could signify the extent of their improvement by moving them clear of the relegation zone.
Allardyce added: “We need to win this game to put together a run of four wins in eight games which will reap us 12 points in eight matches and would be a fantastic start for me.
“It would be a fantastic achievement to get us out of the trouble we were in and 15 points from 16 games would be a massive, massive achievement in terms of where we’ve started from.”
However Allardyce is under no illusions about the size of the challenge facing his side against Watford team who sit 10th in the table and have made a habit of performing well away from home this season.
“The statistics tell us more teams are winning away games in the Premier League than ever before and if you look at Watford’s record away from home it shows you how difficult it is going to be,” he said.
“They’ve already won three games away and they’ve scored goals. They’ve got two very good strikers so we will have to be in top form if we are going to try to win this game.”