Ronald Koeman: Southampton's Jay Rodriguez needs time to get back to his best
Published 25/09/2015 | 22:50
Jay Rodriguez is getting closer to his best every week, but Ronald Koeman is unsure whether the Southampton forward is ready for an England return.
A ruptured anterior cruciate ligament ruled the 26-year-old out for 16 months, meaning he missed the entire 2014/15 season after his World Cup hopes were cruelly extinguished.
Rodriguez made his belated return in last month's Europa League win at Vitesse Arnhem and took his goal tally for the season to three with a brace in Wednesday's 6-0 mauling of MK Dons in the Capital One Cup.
It was an impressive display and potentially a timely one given Roy Hodgson will next week name the squad for England's final Euro 2016 qualifiers against Estonia and Lithuania.
Rodriguez recently spoke of his desire to add to his solitary cap from 2013 and, whether that comes around this time around or not, Koeman believes he is getting back to the form that earned him that recognition.
"That's not up to me," he said of a potential international call-up. "To be a candidate you win with how you play for your club. That's the most important.
"Against MK Dons, in my opinion, when I was looking to Jay he was really fresh in the game. Sometimes you see that he is a little bit more struggling, a little bit more tired.
"That's normal - we are talking about 14 months out of real competition. You don't recover that in two weeks, you need time for that.
"But every week he is more close to being the Jay that he was."
Rodriguez is one of three Southampton players to have represented the England senior team along with Fraser Forster and Ryan Bertrand.
The former is absent with a long-term knee injury but left-back Bertrand has a chance of being called upon if he impresses against Swansea - what would be his first start of the season after his own knee complaint.
Koeman was cautious when asked if he would be fit enough to be considered by England - "that's a difficult question", he said - but was more forthcoming when asked about Jack Cork.
The midfielder's fine form since swapping Southampton for Swansea in January has put him in line for a maiden England call-up next, but Koeman has no regrets about allowing him to leave.
"He had potential," the Dutchman said. "He was not a young player, he was an important person and player in the group.
"But always there is a moment for that kind of players, if they accept the role at that moment or they are looking for a new challenge. He took his new challenge."