JACK Rodwell is desperate to finish the season with a bang after injuries have disrupted his maiden campaign at Sunderland.
With 10 games of the season to go, Sunderland are lurching towards the finish line, with Gus Poyet’s men in dire need of a first Premier League win in six games when fellow strugglers Aston Villa visit the Stadium of Light tomorrow.
But for fit-again midfielder Rodwell, there remains something to prove in a campaign where he has been limited to just 12 top- flight starts since arriving in a £10m move from Manchester City during the summer.
Form and particularly injuries, have restricted Rodwell’s involvement, with a series of niggling problems too often leaving the 24-year-old as a spectator.
But Rodwell returned from a month on the treatment table to grab the equaliser in Sunderland’s 1-1 draw at Hull last week and hopes that can be the springboard to finishing the season on a high note.
Rodwell said: “It will be good for me now if I can finish the season strong.
“There’s 10 games left and hopefully I can be fit for all 10 of them.
“I feel fit. I got the 90 minutes under my belt at Hull which helped.”
The England international’s goal at Hull transformed him in the closing stages at the KC Stadium, yet he does not believe that it is a lack of self-belief which has held him back in his first year at Sunderland.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve been lacking in confidence, although I think the goal helped,” he said.
“But I wasn’t used to the system in the first half at Hull. It’s the first time I’ve really been playing from the left.
“That’s not an excuse, but I couldn’t really get into the positions to use the ball.
“But in the second half, I was told to come inside more off the line and try to get in the hole.
“That was hard because we had no width, but when Patrick (van Aanholt) came on, it gave me more licence to come inside because I knew he would be getting the crosses in.”
Sunderland have had 10 days without a game since they managed to grab a share of the spoils at Hull, with Poyet needing to call on fresh bodies and fresh minds for what promises to be a nervy run-in.
But Poyet hasn’t got a host of options for the visit of Villa, with Emanuele Giaccherini, Adam Johnson, Will Buckley and Lee Cattermole all absent.
The loss of the suspended Cattermole for the next two games, in particular, is a blow for Sunderland and one which puts greater emphasis on Rodwell’s contribution in the middle of the park.
“I think for the squad, it’s good that we’ve had a break,” he added.
“The last few games have been gruelling – mentally, as well as physically.
“Everyone is fresh for tomorrow now. We’ll obviously be without Lee for the next two games, but we’ll have to adapt.”