Sunday Story: Jack Rodwell

By Jeremy Walker

New signing Jack Rodwell is raring to go at Sydney FC as the former England international aims to become “one of the best players in the league”.

The new Sky Blues’ new acquisition is impressed by the club’s high footballing standards, relishing the “exciting” opportunity to play under the expertise of head coach Steve Corica.

Born in Southport just 19 miles north of Liverpool, the 31-year-old Englishman comes from a truly authentic football background – learning his trade from a young age at the Everton FC youth academy.

You have to pick a side of Merseyside, Red or Blue. I joined Everton when I was seven, so the choice was already made for me.

— Jack Rodwell

Rodwell explains: “I had a great upbringing, Southport’s a nice little beach town. All my friends still live there now. Obviously being from there … you’re either Everton or Liverpool.

“But you have to pick a side on Merseyside, Red or Blue, whatever you prefer really. I joined Everton when I was seven, so the choice was already made for me.”

Being an Evertonian through and through, Rodwell cherished his time at the Toffees’ Academy and Goodison Park – developing his game at what is renowned as one of the top youth academies in modern football.

“You used to get free couple of tickets … all the youth players did so it was good for us to watch the first team play from a young age,” he adds.

“Probably my fondest memory of it was being the ball boy; like literally on the pitch. We used to get instruction before the game to throw the ball on very fast to help the team.”

Debuting for the Everton first team in 2007 under David Moyes at age 16, Rodwell impressed from a young age – winning his first of three England caps when just 20.

After over 100 games for the Toffees he switched to Manchester City and was part of the team that lifted Premier League title at Manchester City in 2014.

A later move to Sunderland meant Rodwell has gained exposure to some of world football’s fiercest derby matches – the Merseyside and Tyne-Wear derbies.

He added: “Both massive derbies, obviously. Sunderland against Newcastle is an amazing rivalry and obviously growing up the Everton, the Liverpool one was the special for me.”

“Playing in those massive games created great memories for me. One day when I’m telling my grandkids about it, that’s when I’ll probably reflect on it a bit more and look at it and think ‘wow, they were special games.’”

Having played in a Sydney Derby last season for the Wanderers, Rodwell said the match is alike to intense derbies back home in England.

And he added: “It might be a little bit more feisty this year”

“It’s a similar atmosphere in the ground to back home,” he said. “Obviously coming from Wanderers, I don’t know what it’s going to be like this season. I know Milos Ninković went to Wanderers as well so maybe it might be a little bit feistier this year, we’ll see.

“As a player you look at those games, and they are the special games.”

“That’s what it’s about really, you’re playing for the fans, so they’re the games they’re interested in most.”

With a few training sessions now under his belt in preparation for the upcoming A-League season, Rodwell is pleased with the high standards that head coach Steve Corica has set.

“I know a bit about him obviously and his playing background in England as well. He’s had a great career and being in Australia for a year I’ve heard good things about him as a manager,” he said.

“I’ve been out on the training pitch now with him a few times and he has a good attention to detail. There’s no stone unturned in terms of the tactical side … so it’ll be exciting to work under him and it’s so far so good.”

After captaining the A-League All Star team which narrowly lost 3-2 to Barcelona in May, Rodwell is aiming to make a big impact for Sydney FC in the 2022/23 campaign.

“Obviously I’ve had a taste of the league now and I feel like I can really contribute to the league,” he said.

“We had the All-Star game last season, which I managed to get in. If there was another one I want to be in that. I want to be one of the best players in the league, that’s my motivation.”

Determined to improve at the age of 31, Rodwell embodies the leadership and experience that Sydney FC will look to utilise in their pursuit for silverware this season.

“It’s the love of the game really, I’ve played this game since I was seven and obviously playing in Australia I’m ambitious and I want to kick on.”