When several of his friends flew the nest in September, going away to university, Jack Rodwell stayed at home with his parents.
The messages would land on a regular basis, telling him of the wild times they were enjoying, but, as he takes his place at the heart of the Everton midfield at Stamford Bridge this afternoon, the teenager regarded as the future face of the England team would not have it any other way.
To Rodwell, the tales from freshers’ week must have sounded as distant as the idea of locking horns with Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack would sound to any ordinary teenager.
At the age of 18, he is living the dream — a regular in the Everton and England Under-21 teams, predicted to graduate to full international honours sooner rather than later and now, as the Boy’s Own story continues, attracting covetous gazes from Manchester United, Chelsea and, if the latest reports are to be believed, Real Madrid.
In a recent survey, 14 of the 20 Barclays Premier League managers identified Rodwell as the young player most likely to take English football by storm.
For all the excitement that surrounds Jack Wilshere, Fabian Delph and others, it is the Everton youngster, with 49 senior appearances to his name already, whose future appears most secure. Next year’s World Cup finals will almost certainly come too soon for him, but full England recognition cannot be far away.
Born in March 1991 — nine days after Ryan Giggs made his professional debut for United against Everton at Old Trafford — Rodwell is a young man who has been blessed. We already knew he was blessed with the ability to play with both feet, the instinct to switch midfield and defence and the composure to feel at home on any stage. What becomes clear, as he opens up to a national newspaper for the first time, is that he is also blessed with the level-headedness to take stardom in his stride and the support of a strong family unit in Birkdale, the North West coastal village more readily associated with golf than football.
And all this before we come to the good looks and good manners that lead you to wonder whether there is anything else he would like to declare, such as a sideline in award-winning poetry.
Rodwell, though, has but one thing to declare — his commitment to Everton. There is an understandable degree of discomfort at Goodison Park with some of the attention their latest protégé has been attracting, given how things turned out with Wayne Rooney, but Rodwell refuses even to entertain the idea of leaving Merseyside, fully appreciative, it seems, of the stage David Moyes has given him on which to launch his career.
“I don’t read anything into the speculation,” he says. “All I’m focusing on is the next game. I’ve got to be ready to start the next game and be in the manager’s thoughts. Obviously anyone would be flattered by interest from other clubs, but I really am happy playing for Everton. I enjoy it there. It’s where I’ve always been and I love it.
“The gaffer [Moyes] has been brilliant for me. He has put his trust in me, playing me at such a young age, and he has always tried to look after me. I’ve got a lot to thank him for.”
The question that immediately comes to mind is whether he has ever felt Moyes’s wrath, whether for a lapse in concentration on the pitch or indeed off it. “No, I don’t think I have,” he says. “Maybe if he thought he had to, he would have done, but I’ve not had that much going on off the pitch that he would have to speak about it, really.”
His father, Malcolm, beams with pride alongside him, as does his representative, Mick McGuire, of the James Grant Group, which, having previously been synonymous with the entertainment world and celebrities such as Ant and Dec, appears to have struck gold early on its recent entry into sports management.
“If I’m level-headed, it’s probably the way I’ve been brought up,” Rodwell says. “I know a lot of players aren’t that way, but that’s not a negative thing. It’s just the way different people are brought up. I’ve been brought up in a family where I’ve always kept a clear mind and level head.
“You hear that phrase thrown around about footballers being ‘big time’. But the lads at Everton are great in terms of looking after you. You’ve got people like Phil Neville, Tim Howard, Tim Cahill — top professionals, who are great with the youngsters.”
Rodwell joined Everton’s centre of excellence at the age of 7 and by the time he reached his teens, was already being talked about in football circles as a boy destined for great things. At that stage, though, the buzz around Goodison Park was about another boy, six years his senior.
“I was in the same team as John Rooney, who is Wayne’s brother and is at Macclesfield now,” he says. “John used to come to training and the coaches would be saying to him, ‘Your Wayne is brilliant.’ I hadn’t seen him play until once at a Youth Cup game and I remember thinking, ‘Yeah, he looks really good, actually.’ He was the one everyone was raving about.”
Spool forward a few years and Rodwell was the one that everyone was raving about. “At first it was a bit surreal playing in the Premier League at 16, coming up against world-class players, because it had always been my dream,” he says.
“But quickly it becomes second nature to you. It has happened with me a lot. I played in the under-18s when I was 14, then the reserves at 15 and then the first team. At first it’s daunting, but you get used to it.”
Rodwell identifies the FA Cup fourth-round replay against Liverpool in February, which Everton won 1-0 in extra time, as a breakthrough moment. “That’s when I thought, ‘This is the biggest stage and I feel like I can do it,’ ” he says. “That was against big players and it was a massive occasion, the derby, and I came on and felt in control. That was probably the turning point.”
It was also the night that convinced him he could be a top-class central midfield player. “To be honest, I had always thought of central defence as my position because I had always played there as a youngster, probably because I’m tall,” he says. “But last season and this season I’ve played in midfield and I’ve really enjoyed it. Even though it’s possible I’ll move back into defence at some point, right now I definitely see myself as a midfielder.
“When I was growing up, I always liked Rio Ferdinand, who played in both positions when he was younger. Funnily enough, another one I liked was [Marcel] Desailly, so when you look at it like that, the players I’ve admired could play both positions.
“Playing in midfield, I’ve played against plenty of good players and some of the stuff they do is brilliant. But I’m different to someone like Frank Lampard. If he does something, I’ll do something else. There are different ways of playing. He’s 31 and he’s very experienced. I’m still 18 and I’m inexperienced. All I can do is hopefully get more games and hope that, with experience, success will come.”
Success such as being called into the England squad? “That would be great if it happens,” Rodwell says. “Obviously I would love to play for the England senior team. That’s another dream and it’s the next step up now I’m playing regularly for the under-21s, but all I can focus on is playing regularly for Everton, playing well and, if that comes, everything else will hopefully come with it. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself to get a call-up. I just need to concentrate on my football.
“I try to live a normal life. I’ve got friends and people I can relax with. One of my mates is at university at Leicester and he’s always telling me how much he’s loving it. Student life is what it is. I can have fun to a point, but there’s a certain line I can’t cross. I have to know the limit.”
His father and McGuire nod their heads alongside him. They need not worry. This is one student for whom graduation to full England honours is only a matter of time.
Note: the following content is not moderated or vetted by the site owners at the time of submission. Comments are the responsibility of the poster. Disclaimer
1 Posted 12/12/2009 at 03:34:24
2 Posted 12/12/2009 at 04:12:39
That is the nature of football, you are either a buying club (Man United) or a selling club (Everton)
3 Posted 12/12/2009 at 08:37:38
4 Posted 12/12/2009 at 09:28:30
5 Posted 12/12/2009 at 11:26:13
6 Posted 12/12/2009 at 11:43:45
7 Posted 12/12/2009 at 11:51:06
As for "He will never be European player of the year at Everton but he may at Man United" oh you must mean just like Giggs, Scholes, Keane....etc
And if you think he will never win anything at his boyhood club......If you know your history I would strongly disagree
8 Posted 12/12/2009 at 15:00:32
The difference between us and them, is that we are becoming a selling club for financial reasons, they haven’t.
9 Posted 12/12/2009 at 15:07:53
I can perhaps see Moyes telling Rodwell to keep it simple to begin with and just try to retain possession, but not after 6 months of 1st team football, i just dont believe he has that kind of ability of belief in himself YET.
Fair enough i can appreciate that he does keep possesion quite well and at least tries to play it on the deck, but what is the point if all he is going to do is pass it back to Hibbo or Yobo to hoof it up anyway?
I dont believe anybody thinks the lad is crap, i think it is more they believe him to be over rated and hyped up far too much. It is clear he has great attributes and a lot of potential, but at the moment that is all it is, potential.
10 Posted 12/12/2009 at 16:03:52
I think JR showed great maturity and is right when he says he wants to focus on playing for us and Moyes said during the week that the players should be proud to play for Everton and it is the biggest stage a lot of them will ever achieve.
I don’t see Everton as a stepping stone to Man U and I don’t see us as a selling club at present.
In the past the big yin was sold for cash but that was in the days of Johnson.
11 Posted 12/12/2009 at 20:40:08
I think we'd better get used to this scenario as in my opinion we are set for a long period of it and to add to the misery Moyes will gone before too long when someone steps in with money (Man City anyone).
12 Posted 13/12/2009 at 01:20:26
As you have clearly stated, he has great attributes and a great potential, so by you saying he is over-hyped does not make sense to me. Only time will tell if he can become great.
You also mention that he plays the ball back to Yobo and Hibbert, who "hoof the ball up anyway". Surely this is Yobo's and Hibbert's problem, not JR’s. Sometimes keeping it simple is the best way to play.
Roy Keane was never a great creator but what he did was keep it simple; don't give the ball away, play the way you're facing. These basics are what children learn from the outset. At the moment he is doing exactly what is asked of him and I for one am happy with his contribution to the team.
13 Posted 13/12/2009 at 02:33:38
He has been compared to Wayne Rooney the best English player of his generation and maybe one of England's all time greats when any Evertonian should surely be able to see the gulf in class.
The most amusing is the comparrisons between Rodwell and Beckenbaur — one of the all-time greats of any nation and any generation, when the lad hasn't done anything.
I have already seen 3 or 4 more talented British players around his age group, whereas Rooney was not only head and shoulders above everyone in his age group, he was better than most of any age group.
I could understand the hype with Rooney, he seemed to break a new record every other week scoring great goals against great sides between the ages of 16-18, playing for England and being the best player in the team, destroying the world's best defenders. So far, Rodwell has done nothing to command such a big reputation apart from play for the England U21s.
My main problem with Rodwell is that I believe if a player is going to be a holding/defensive midfield player and they are not great at breaking up opposition attacks then they need the attributes of a player like Carrick or Alonso where they can dictate a game and play forward passes.
If the player is less creative or can only make simple backward and sideways passes, like a Carsley or Mascherano or your example Roy Keane, then the player needs to make up for his lack of passing ability by working harder to break up play, close people down and get stuck in.
Rodwell doesn't really make the forward passes and he doesn't realy close people down and get stuck in, so there's not much point in him being on the pitch. Games just seem to pass him by and he contributes little to the team, he doesn't seem to be very effective in my eyes.
I'm glad you are happy with his contribution but I am not. Only for injuries the lad would be sat on the bench with Gosling and Baxter, so I don't know how these comparrisons can come about.
14 Posted 13/12/2009 at 03:49:45
Hibbo's and Yobo’s priority is to defend and clear the lines. If they pass to Rodwell and all he does is give it them back, what good is that? It is more the responsibility of the midfield to provide the service for the strikers and have more ability than the defence to make the forward passes.
15 Posted 13/12/2009 at 11:16:13
’I have already seen 3 or 4 more talented British players around his age group’.
Name them, please?
16 Posted 13/12/2009 at 12:37:26
Everyone was saying ’look, you can clearly see the lad has talent but he needs time to mature and get these errors out of his game’. David Moyes has spared Jack Rodwell that pain, which is absolutely inevitable playing against big, powerful, experienced Premier League centre forwards. He is a big boy but that is really what he still is... a boy.
Even after Leeds took the plunge on the kid as a 20-year-old, in his first season he was really still all over the place at times. Then the real breakthrough came though... he got over his mistakes, he grew massively with the exposure to European competition and by the 2002 World Cup I was already being laughed at by my friends as I announced ’this lad is going to come back from this tournament as the best centre half in world football’.
In my opinion he did, he was in the team of the tournament and Man United promptly paid a world record fee for him. By this point though you are talking about a 23/24 year old player, a man now, not a boy anymore.
Honestly, Ian...14 of the 20 Premier League managers have just highlighted the lad as the brightest young talent in the English game. With all due respect, they know better than you, as I do.
You are missing something. I don't know what it is, technical understanding or just perspective, but you are missing something that is absolutely glaringly obvious to most of us. That is that Jack Rodwell is a class act who is destined for the very top of the game.
Not just that, he’s a classy guy too and I for one will enjoy every minute he has with us instead of deluding myself into the belief that he is ’overrated’.
17 Posted 13/12/2009 at 12:40:16
He’s an extremely talented young player, with a great future, hopefully with us, and I for one can't wait to see you eat the garbage you’ve just spouted.
18 Posted 13/12/2009 at 13:08:40
Why do you have such a big problem with me having an opinion different to yours? That I don't believe he will be as good as a Beckenbaur which many have said on here, and he’s nowhere near a Rooney, ie, head and shoulders best of his generation.
Everything you say about Ferdinand I remeber, but Rodwell and Ferdinand are different. Ferdinand made mistakes because of lack of concentration but usually had the pace to get himself out the shit, but he still impressed me in a way Rodwell does not.
Rodwell is very lucky to be at a club like Everton where he has had so many opportunities to play and develop, the likes of which better players with more potential will not get at other clubs.
No doubt he will get his England call up over the next few years, thanks to Everton and Moyes for their persistence in playing him, but there is no way he has the kind of natural ability of some of the world's greats.
Ryan, four British players as good if not better than Rodwell off the top of my head: Aaron Ramsey, Kieran Gibbs, James Tomkins and Theo Walcott.
19 Posted 13/12/2009 at 14:17:37
All young players will have their ups and downs. I totally disagree with you when you say "there is no way he has the kind of natural ability of some of the world's greats".
Fairly quick, tall, athletic, good on the ball, two-footed. He has a lot of qualities. I also disagree with the sideways passing remark. I’ve been him hit some wonderful 40-yard passes before.
Still, I supose it’s all about opinions.
20 Posted 13/12/2009 at 14:53:51
21 Posted 13/12/2009 at 15:39:12
22 Posted 13/12/2009 at 15:46:52
23 Posted 13/12/2009 at 19:50:24
We actually have a fair CM now with wide problems (which JR will not solve). I rate JR very highly. His record is as good as it gets and he plays at controlled pace not needing to be a Premier League loonie clone. He had rave reviews at the U21 Championship and he is rated highly by the top clubs. If we put all of our players up for sale I reckon the queue for Jack would be the longest and some wouldn’t have a queue.
Liverpool were very poor today but I saw the possible replacement for DM if he ever leaves and that is Dave Jones. His Cardiff side play a very nice game.
24 Posted 16/12/2009 at 11:06:55
Here is the crux. I, like many others on here (and fourteen of the twenty current Premier League managers), rate JR as an already accomplished, prodigious young talent and I very much hope he realises his full potential with our club. You may agree with the latter part of that sentiment but clearly not the former. I hope that clears it up so we can get back to the point of this post.
Gary Tudor, thanks for bringing it to our attention as I had not had the benefit of reading it prior to this. Rodwell seems a very level-headed player and it is to our great advantage he is with us. I hope he does not get his head turned...
25 Posted 16/12/2009 at 13:58:32
People give their side of the argument and I give mine. I try to answer their questions as best I can in the most reasoned possible way but then I get poor responses back from the likes of Neil such as:
’’Sweet, sweet lord, Ian, you have just put James Tomkins in the same bracket as Jack Rodwell!! I think that says it all really’’ — That's the arguement from some one who has lost or ran out of ideas as far as I'm concerned.
Add Your Comments
In order to post a comment to Fan Articles, you need to be logged in as a registered user of the site.
Or Sign up as a ToffeeWeb Member — it's free, takes just a few minutes and will allow you to post your comments on articles and MailBag submissions across the site.