Sunderland manager David Moyes believes midfielder Jack Rodwell can have a big impact for the Black Cats in the second half of the season after recently returning from injury.
The former Manchester City and Everton man returned from a two-month absence to feature against Liverpool in the club’s first outing of 2017, while he was also involved for the full 90 minutes in Saturday’s goalless draw with Burnley in the FA Cup third round.
Moyes was encouraged by the midfielder’s performances after Rodwell went close to netting on a couple of occasions.
The Black Cats boss is delighted to have the 25-year-old back and available as his middle third options start to thin out.
Didier Ndong has departed for potentially six weeks on international duty with hosts Gabon at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Rodwell is likely to be handed plenty of opportunities in Ndong’s absence as Sunderland, who are priced at 1.50 to be relegated, look to climb out of the bottom three in the Premier League.
And Moyes feels he is just starting to hit form at the right time, as he said: “I thought Jack played as well as anybody.
He was still running out of a bit of steam with 20 minutes to go, but hopefully we’ll be able to build his fitness levels back up over the coming weeks.
“I think Jack’s definitely getting it back. He had two or three attempts at goal and passed the ball relatively well. There were some good moments and we need him.”
He added: “We’re needing someone to take a bit of responsibility in the middle of the pitch for us and Jack’s just beginning to do a bit of that.”