David Moyes has been left anxiously waiting to discover the extent of a hamstring injury to Jack Rodwell at Selhurst Park on Saturday.
The 25-year-old was replaced by Darron Gibson midway through the second half, on the day he finally ended his run of Sunderland league starts without a win – at the 38th attempt.
The Scot hailed the steady improvement of the youngster he brought through the ranks at Everton, and revealed the frank discussions the pair have been having to try and break that unwanted stat.
He said: “I was actually going to mention it [the record], but I thought ‘I won’t draw attention to it’.
“It has crossed my mind a few times, as a manager you’d be stupid not to look at that.
“But Jack’s actually played well in recent weeks, and I’d said (on Saturday) ‘It’s about time you started to get a grip of games, you’re not a boy any more, get over it and start getting on. It’s about time you started to show that you’re a top player, and that you can be a top player. Grasp games’.
“Recently, he’s done that.
“I thought he had a good game. He’s very good, comfortable on the ball and we want him to take more responsibility, to help make us play.
“I thought he tried that (against Palace).
“I wasn’t losing patience with him, but I know Jack.
“It was about time, you’re going to have to stand up.
“This was a big game for us and coming here we knew what we’d have to deal with. ‘Jack, are you going to deal with it? Are you going to try and control the game when you get the ball?’
“We were on at him from the first minute, when he got the ball, trying to get him to make us play.
Moyes admitted that injuries have taken their toll on Rodwell but insisted that he can still fulfil the potential that brought him an England cap and made him one of the league’s most highly-rated youngsters.
Moyes said: “Can he be the player he once was? Yeah. He’s got a different body now to do it, so he has to think about how he plays.
“When he was young he had great energy. He’s still got a lot of energy but getting older he has to know how to do it.
“He’s had terrible problems with injuries, and I’ve just got to hope that he’s not got a serious hamstring injury because he’s only just got back in the last three or four weeks. It’d be a real blow if we lose him.”
Rodwell’s replacement, Gibson, enjoyed a short but solid debut in the second half.
There was almost a spectacular goal in the latter stages, Gibson letting fly from the edge of the area. It flew just wide of Wayne Hennessey’s right-hand post, but the power in that right boot was clear to see, and exactly what Moyes is hoping to harness between now and the end of the season.
Most encouraging, though, was the sign of a calm head in possession. With Sunderland soaking up a large amount of pressure, the Irishman helped them break on a number of occasions with simple but composed passing.
The Scot was pleased with his side’s resilience in a second half in which the Eagles had plenty of ball and plenty of shots, but showed no signs of making the Black Cats wobble.
That was even with injuries to three key players.
Moyes said: “We had to make sure we didn’t make any mistakes and let Crystal Palace into the game quickly, when they could generate the atmosphere, which they do. They’ve got a great atmosphere here.
“We just wanted to try and keep it calm.
“We’d scored our goals. I thought we could score on the counter-attack, and we nearly did a couple of times. I thought if we were patient enough, we’d get that.
“We expected them to make changes but tried to prepare the best we could for it, so we did a good job of containing them.
“The big thing was that we lost a few players to injury. I wasn’t keen to make the changes so quickly, I was forced into it.”