What would Southampton's Jay Rodriguez bring to West Bromwich Albion?
It is always a surprising reminder when you consider that Jay Rodriguez could and probably should have featured in a World Cup for England. The Burnley-born marksman began his senior professional football career with his home-town club, scoring 31 Championship goals in five seasons, including finishing as top goal scorer for the Clarets in his final two seasons at Turf Moor, with 15 in all competitions in 2010/11 and a further 21 across all competitions in 2011/12.
He earned the accolade a place in the PFA Championship Team of the Year for his exploits with Burnley, which won him his big move to at the time newly promoted Premier League side Southampton. He managed nine Premier League goals in his first season in the top flight to help Southampton avoid relegation, including goals against Tottenham Hotpur, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United. His big break however came the following season, where he notched 17 goals in all competitions for the improving Saints including a strike in the FA Cup against former club Burnley, and managing the fastest Premier League goal of the season, with a goal after just 15 seconds in a 3-1 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
His form was impressing then England manager Roy Hodgson, and he received his first England call-up to the senior squad for the friendly defeats to Chile and Germany in November 2013, winning his first full international cap against Chile having previously featured in England’s U-21 side.
In strong contention for a spot on the plane to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup alongside then Southampton team-mates Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert, his season was rocked by an anterior cruciate ligament injury at Manchester City, which would keep him on the sidelines for 11 months. He was therefore ruled out of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and for the entirety of the following 2014/15 football season.
Since then, the 27-year-old’s career has never quite fully recovered. He has featured once for Southampton this season in their 2-0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford, after making 16 appearances and scoring three goals through the entirety of the 2015/16 campaign. Now he is being linked with a loan move away from St. Mary’s in order to have an opportunity of first-team football again, and according to the Birmingham Mail, Tony Pulis’ goal-shy West Bromwich Albion are one of the clubs in advanced talks with the midfielder as the Welshman attempts to bolster his attacking line at the Hawthorns.
Pulis has been under pressure to add firepower to his side after the Baggies only managed 34 goals in their 38 Premier League games last season. A proposed £16million deal for West Ham United striker Diafra Sakho has already fallen through over fitness issues, so undoubtedly a punt on England international Rodriguez would be a gamble given his recent injury woes. He underwent surgery on a foot injury last November after returning from his cruciate ligament injury back in April 2014, but despite his medical history the Albion will be needing him to hit the ground running and score goals but the question is whether he will be in the right shape to provide that.
Of course it will be a problem if his prior history in the treatment room comes back to haunt him, but if the move were to work out well, the Baggies would undoubtedly have a proven goalscorer on their hands. He scored his 17 goals for Southampton in 2013/14 having been pushed out to the left flank, and were Pulis to redeploy him in the centre of the attack alongside Salomon Rondon, he may prove to be even more potent if he can put his injury troubles behind him. He was by all accounts showing remarkable progress with Southampton, and a first steady run back in the first-team consistently since returning to fitness may be the springboard Rodriguez needs to get his career back on track.
The forward himself is adept at playing short passes and one-twos around the penalty area and is keen on coming inside and having efforts at goal. That creativity and invention has been lacking at the Albion of late, and with Rondon the main target man who can hold up play, win aerial battles and score goals, a striker next to him who his a proven finisher with which he can play incisive passes, feed from and provide balls into feet for may well be the dimension in attack that has been missing for the Black Country side.
Having managed a streak of five goals in four games during the 2013/14 season for the Saints, there is reason to believe that one goal for the sake of confidence is all Rodriguez may require to hit form at West Brom. He has not had the opportunity of a consistent run back in the team at Southampton to rediscover his form, yet once the forward hits his elusive goal, history shows he is more than capable of getting firing. He also has the boost of working up front with one of his former Southampton team-mates, Rickie Lambert, he found himself at the Hawthorns last season via an ill-fated spell with Liverpool.
According to the report in the Birmingham Mail, it is the Albion who are now favourites to seal a loan deal for the forward and it could be potentially finalised as early as the weekend. It is a gamble, and Tony Pulis as well as most if not all Baggies fans will be anxious for the forward to make an immediate impact. It may however, take a little patience on their part for the forward to get going if the deal does happen, and if they are prepared to give him that time to rediscover his goalscoring touch, then they may well have made an astute acquisition and have a real handful in front of goal back on their books.
Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by Sharon Cadden.