Sunderland start to take shape with Rodwell

With the glass half full, Sunderland's signing of Jack Rodwell from Manchester City can be seen as a resounding answer to the concerns of supporters frustrated by previously unexciting progress on transfers.

Good enough to play for England and in the Champions League, an accomplished box-to-box midfielder able to score with both feet and his head, Rodwell has undeniable star quality. He is just the sort of acquisition to suggest Gus Poyet means business.

With the glass half empty, 10 million seems an awful lot to pay for a player who struggled to make an impact at Manchester City and has been prone to repeated hamstring problems.

We do not know for certain that was the fee; the consistently annoying "undisclosed fee" nonsense prevails, leaving us to believe or disbelieve the figure widely circulated and depriving the clubs of any right to complain if it's way out. But it is fair to assume a lot of money is changing hands; plenty of other clubs were interested in Rodwell.

And fortunately, there seems ample reason to adopt a positive outlook towards the five-year deal he has signed at the Stadium of Light. If Sunderland's summer has to some extent been a tale of two Jacks, the arrival of this one, Rodwell, overwhelms lingering disappointment at the loss of another, Colback, to Newcastle United.

Colback's commitment and reliability will be missed. But Rodwell, a year and a half younger at 23, probably has a little more to his game. With apparently unlimited purchasing power at Manchester City's disposal, it is no shame to be considered surplus to requirements at the Etihad.

Staying free of injury is likely to be a bigger challenge than recapturing the form that made him a hero to Everton supporters under David Moyes.

Signed five years to the day since Darren Bent joined Sunderland from Tottenham in one of the club's other major transfer dealings of recent times, Rodwell offers a welcome sign that Poyet commands sufficient respect to attract top players to the far north.

It was obvious the Uruguayan head coach's shopping was far from done when Billy Jones, Jordi Gomez and Costel Pantilimon arrived on frees, followed by the cut-price Patrick van Aanholt. It would come as little surprise to hear of further significant purchases before the ink is properly dry on Rodwell's signature.

The way the squad is taking shape should remove nagging doubts about the approach for the new season.

Van Aanholt is a great improvement on Phil Bardsley, now at Stoke. His darting runs should create chances galore. And if Sunderland retain Adam Johnson, who left the Etihad for Sunderland just after Rodwell arrived there from Everton two years ago, there is the mouth-watering promise of a linkup on the left flank to recall the thrilling partnership, only seen a division lower, of Michael Gray and Allan "Magic" Johnston.

In midfield, Gomez and now Rodwell are better, more creative options than the workmanlike Craig Gardner or inconsistent David Vaughan, both of whom have left since the end of last season. Pantilimon, yet another Man City old boy, is already showing Sunderland's player of last season, Vito Mannone, that he intends to fight hard to become the goalkeeping first choice.

Uncertainty remains up front. Connor Wickham's future remains unclear, and nobody is sure whether he has even been offered a new contract, let alone rejected one.

Beyond that, no one is quite sure how Poyet's continued pursuit of Fabio Borini will end up. And while Jozy Altidore is fit again after his wretchedly disappointing injury in the USA's first World Cup game, his future must be considered in doubt. The capture of another attacker might well hasten his departure. That leaves Steven Fletcher and fringe strikers Mikael Mandron and Duncan Watmore.

The jigsaw is not yet complete, making it difficult to predict with confidence a possible starting lineup for the opening game at West Brom.

But Rodwell's arrival is a declaration of intent that could go some way to ensuring a less nervy season.