We all remember that heartbreaking moment. It was April 2014 and Southampton were on course to reaching their highest Premier League finish with the help of Jay Rodriguez’s immense goalscoring form; but upon Southampton’s trip to the Etihad stadium in search of yet another three points, Jay Rodriguez and his World Cup dreams came crashing down. The loyal and loving Southampton fans backed him with great pride during his spell on the sidelines – 13 months to be precise – but it’s now been 28 months since that injury and some would say that there has been little to suggest that we will ever witness that fine form again. With that, Rodriguez has been linked with a loan move away from Southampton and that has many fans talking.
Early yesterday morning it was reported that Hull City have enquired for the availability of Southampton’s Jay Rodriguez on loan, and this has truly been a topic of split opinion for Southampton fans.
But first things first, let’s think about this situation. At this present moment, it seems that Claude Puel has found his favoured attacking combination in Nathan Redmond and Shane Long – meanwhile, Austin appears to be the first call from the bench. For a forward who is in desperate need of game time, this can understandably be a worrying situation going into the new season. So much so that this link to Hull City may well be Rodriguez’s agent at work.
In addition, it must be pointed out just how tough of a summer those poor Hull City fans have been forced to endure – if anyone can sympathise, then it’s us Southampton fans. After such a summer, being linked with a player of Rodriguez’s calibre will most likely give the Tigers fans a much needed boost. And whilst I’m sure that Hull City would love to acquire the services of Rodriguez, they will know full well that it’s an optimistic move. A move that can only result in good PR for the club, regardless of the result in negotiations. If Hull City secure the deal, then their fans are delighted, and even if the deal breaks down, the fans will be left optimistic over who the next target may be.
But, if this deal were to go ahead, how could it benefit Southampton, and most importantly, Jay Rodriguez?
When you consider that the fan favourite had the entire duration of pre-season to impress and show his qualities to Southampton’s new boss, Claude Puel, Rodriguez clearly isn’t in the blueprints of the first XI. At a time when Rodriguez is reportedly “100% fit”, he needs to be playing regular football; anything other than that for the former England International is an act of willingly allowing his career to simmer out. It goes without saying that Hull City will be desperate for goals this season in their chase for Premier League safety, and if they were to acquire Rodriguez’s services, he would no doubt gain those valuable first team minutes and be used in his favoured role – an inside left forward.
With that move however, Southampton of course would be left one man lighter in attack, so what do they have to gain from this possible opportunity?
Firstly, Southampton would no doubt be able to receive a reasonable fee for the loan, and alongside this, the wage bill would also be freed up. This could present Southampton the opportunity to carry out a more stable loan move themselves or reinvest the small fee into some young/lower League talent.
Another benefit to this move could be that whilst Southampton carry out their season under Puel, Rodriguez can be progressing as a player at Hull with the aim to once again make his mark in the Southampton side over the 2017/18 season. A season of almost guaranteed football with less pressure on his performances may well reinstall the confidence that Rodriguez once thrived upon – this could only be seen as a benefit.
However, the obvious disadvantage to Rodriguez heading away from Southampton is that the moment an injury in attack occurs, Rodriguez will be needed as third choice. Not to mention that if two injuries were to occur (a perfectly plausible situation) then Rodriguez would be a sure starter.
For this reason, I struggle to see an agreement being struck with Hull City unless at least one attacker was shipped in to bolster Southampton’s attack. Only then could Southampton afford to take the gamble on allowing Rodriguez to find game time elsewhere.
But whilst we sit here discussing what is best for Rodriguez in his current situation, why exactly are we doing just that? If we think back to Rodriguez’s greatest qualities over the 2013/14 season, it was no doubt his ruthless physical approach in both attack and defence. Rodriguez used to drive with the ball in a fashion that would put fear into the oppositions defence, because they knew that even if they won the ball back, he would quickly be going shoulder to shoulder with them to regain possesion. Since then however, Rodriguez’s superb mentality has been replaced by someone who is now scared to put his body on the line, is reluctant in going for 50/50’s and doesnt charge into the box with his old effective approach.
Every last Southampton fan would love nothing more than to see the Jay Rodriguez of 2014 once again firing in red and white, but to tell the truth, the progress needed to make that happen simply isnt occuring right now. If Southampton manage to secure another attacking talent in the market and the interest from Hull is genuine, then maybe, just maybe, a deal that suits all parties can be met. Until then however, we must place faith in Puel’s selections, encourage Rodriguez at every opportunity handed to him, and most importantly, Rodriguez must push past the mental barriers that were placed before him in April 2014.