JACK RODWELL and Daniel Sturridge are surely leading representatives of that sad school of international players who failed to deliver as much as they promised or hoped.
By one of those coincidences that make you wonder whether some divinity playfully messes with football, the careers of the pair first nudged against one another – or didn’t quite – when both were picked by Fabio Capello in the England squad for friendlies with Spain and Sweden ten years ago.
Rodwell started in the second of the two at Wembley and was brought off in the 59th minute and replaced by – you guessed it – Sturridge. Both were making international debuts.
If there is a football spirit he was at it again a few days ago when he went to work on the other side of the world in Oz.
Rodwell made his debut for Sydney Western Strollers while Sturridge did likewise with Perth Glory.
It might have been to the exact minute because, oddly, both came on as late substitutes.
Maybe the three-hour time difference between the cities confused our little pixie because Rodwell played for 13 minutes, Sturridge for three fewer.
But at least they were on their way, not as has-beens in their late golden hours, rather as players still with a good deal to offer unless, as so often as in the past, they break down with injuries: Rodwell suffers hamstrings as if they were made of cotton; Sturridge has those too but also a collection of others, including to knee, hip and thigh.
And a gambling problem that has clouded his later years.
Still, as I say, there should be plenty of eye-catching skills left in him at 32; and plenty of energy in Rodwell at 30.
They started young, both as youth internationals but Rodwell’s decline began in the middle of the last decade.
The first time he played for Everton he was two days short of 18. After a brief move to Manchester City during which he won a Premier League championship medal he was sold to Sunderland as a defensive player.
It wasn’t too long before the Stadium of Light became for him a place of darkness, as much a rehabilitation ward as place of achievement.
Two northern newspapers made it clear they thought he wasn’t worth the £10m fee City received. The worst signing in Sunderland’s history, they declared.
Brief stays at Blackburn and Sheffield United seemed to confirm that this powerful athlete had little else to give.
He played once in the whole of last season for the Blades before fleeing from what for him was an English scrapheap, along with his Australian wife and son to the sunshine of Perth.
Neither he nor Sturridge leave behind the reputation they should have although in fairness to Sturridge he certainly experienced a glory year or two, never more so than when he partnered Luis Suarez in what became known as the SAS partnership in 2013-14 when Liverpool were runners-up behind City in the Premier League.
He scored 21 goals that season, carrying himself with pure menace, as sleek as a python in the penalty area.
It seemed then that England had found a striker of continental style, a man who would go on to secure at least 50 caps.
Instead, he gathered 26 in bits and pieces, his career winding towards its conclusion, culminating in a loan spell with West Brom and a move to Trabzonspor, twice punished for betting offences.
“My best years are ahead of me,” was the hopeful cliche Rodwell used at the start of his career in Sydney.
Perhaps. Perhaps the Wizard of Oz will be kind to both of them.
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