Defensive discipline is key under new boss David Moyes – but Jack Rodwell has been given a licence to thrill at Sunderland.
The 25-year-old started the season at Manchester City last weekend in the holding role alongside John O’Shea in a patched up midfield.
And while Moyes is keen to instil a strong work ethic, organisation and discipline into his side – building on the work of former boss Sam Allardyce – Rodwell says that the Scot has given him licence to get forward.
It worked against City too, with Rodwell sliding Jermain Defoe in for the equaliser with a deft pass.
“There’s a few injuries in midfield so he started with me and John at City, protecting the back four,” said Rodwell.
“But we’re not just holding midfielders, we can get licence to get upfield, and I did get into the last third and created the goal.
“Who knows what he’s going to do once everybody’s fit.
“Lee Cattermole and Jan Kirchhoff are out at the moment, but once they’re back in, we’ve got the players, we’ve got the squad to do more.”
Moyes took charge of Sunderland four weeks ago and Rodwell is enjoying working under his former Everton manager.
The 53-year-old takes charge of his first home game on Sunday, when North East rivals Middlesbrough head to the Stadium of Light for a 1.30pm kick-off.
“It’s funny how football pans out,” said Rodwell.
“I played for him for five years, I’m away four and now I’m back.
“That’s how football goes, you never know what’s around the corner.
“He’s a great manager.
“The approach is pretty similar [to how it was under Allardyce] in the fact that you give 100 per cent and it’s a work ethic that he wants.
“We might play a little bit different but as far as the basics go, he’s the type of manager who expects nothing less than 100 per cent and I thought we gave that to him.
“Discipline, that was the big thing last season when Sam came in. Defensive discipline.
“Once we sorted that out, the results started coming our way and I think we started off with that discipline at Manchester City.
“Second half, we defended pretty much the whole half.
“It’s a little bit frustrating at times when you don’t have the ball, but you’ve just got to try and put a shift in and try and nick a point, which I thought we were going to do.
“So they’re very similar, from that point of view.”
Moyes has said he is looking to get the best out of his former teen prodigy at Goodison Park, with Rodwell failing so far to live up to his early promise.
Rodwell – who sees his long-term future at centre-back – believes there is strong competition for midfield places when Kirchhoff (hamstring) and Cattermole (hernia) return.
“When Jan’s back, he’s a great player and I’m sure he’ll be straight in. Same as Cattermole,” added Rodwell.
“All we can focus on is the performance and I thought we did well at City.
“Obviously he’s brought in Donald Love and Paddy McNair, who can play full-back as well.
“But I’ll always say that I’m happy to play anywhere.
“Naturally, I do feel like I’m a centre-back and I’ll go back there if he wants me to do that.
“But if he wants me to play right-back, left-back for the team, I’ll do it.”
Sunderland produced a spirited display at the Etihad Stadium and were on course for a good point until sub Paddy McNair headed into his own net late on.
Next up is Aitor Karanka’s Boro and Rodwell says games don’t get much bigger.
“Now we’ve got to build on this,” he added.
“We’ve got to take a lot of positives from the game.
“It’s a local derby, Stadium of Light. It doesn’t get much bigger than that, so we’re all buzzing for it.”