It was on 15th June last summer when a pal, who’s a resident of the fine city of Sheffield, shared with me on the q.t. some news about a potential move by City for Jordan Rhodes.
“Advanced talks” was how he described the situation, with the stumbling block to a loan move apparently being the loan fee, which at the time were totally in different ballparks.
My source is about as reliable as they come and he (that’s my only clue) said that Jordan and his dad – who was acting as his agent – were both desperate for the move to happen.
My initial reaction was one of surprise – the general direction of travel in terms of new recruits was ‘young, hungry and inexpensive’ – although it was always an unwritten rule that likely needed relaxing in the elusive search for goals.
At the time I was unsure if Rhodes ticked any of those three boxes but, as it transpired, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Seldom have we witnessed a player quite as hungry pull on the yellow and green shirt.
In the unlikely event you’re reading this, Jordan – I apologise.
And while I’m at it, I may as well apologise for any unkind things I may have said and muttered based purely on the fact he once wore the blue of that lot – even if it was only for ten games.
It was just business.
Equally, the prospect of Rhodes adding some oomph to what had been a fairly non-productive striking department was a pleasant thought, even though the disparity in the proposed loan fees made the move appear little more than a pipe dream.
It was a deal that was on and off more times than you know what until finally on 10th July – shortly after my mate had given me the definitive thumbs up – Rhodes put pen to paper on a year-long loan deal. The doubters, who had struggled to see past the blue shirt he once wore, had no option but to buy in to the fact he wanted to be here.
Of course, his start here was underpinned by that penalty miss against West Brom and not helped by another similar miss at home to Brentford a few weeks later, but between those two incidents (is a missed penalty an ‘incident’?) Rhodes’ clear desire to be here shone through. And still does. All of which has endeared him to City fans in a way hitherto unseen for a player who, for the most part, has been on the fringes.
Since the emergence of Teemu Pukki, and a re-jigged formation that has Marco Stiepermann as the most advanced midfielder, his role has been predominantly bit-part but still that fire burns, and last Saturday he was fanning the flames of the Snake Pit as they encouraged Delia to “sign him up”.
His appearances from the bench are invariably of the ‘made an impact’ variety. Against Derby, his thumping close-range volley came within a whisker of him being that week’s injury-time saviour and against Brentford, in a longer shift, he was central to City’s second-half fightback.
Rarely does he enter the fray and not make his presence felt and his end-of-game thanks-you to the fans feel genuine and are reciprocated.
In truth, only the sensational form of Pukki has prevented him playing a bigger role in this promotion charge, but what also hasn’t gone unnoticed is how he’s invariably the first to congratulate the Finn whenever congratulations are in order.
His attitude has been absolutely spot on – as noted on several occasions by Daniel Farke – and he totally epitomises the ‘all-for-one and one-for-all’ ethic that oozes from every pore of this group. Rhodes is at the heart of it – one of the senior figures who, along with Tim(m)s Krul and Klose, is there to encourage, cajole and coerce those with less experience. His influence extends beyond those minutes he spends on the pitch.
Away from the football, Rhodes has also clearly bought into what this club is all about and it would have been a surprise if he *hadn’t* been one of the four players on James Paget hospital duties in the lead up to Christmas. Equally unsurprising was the caring and empathetic way he engaged with kids whose festive period was to be curtailed by a stay in hospital.
On the Florida trip, Sharon and Andy Bowles made reference to how he made time to chat with them and their son Jacob – again, no surprise.
So, he gets us, and we get him, but as much as we all wish him to be part of all this on a permanent basis, it’s worth remembering that at the AGM Stuart Webber suggested any potential deal would be riddled with difficulty.
I suspect there will be attempts on both sides to at least explore the possibility, but with wages and transfer fees likely to be in need of another zero – Wednesday will want to recoup a sizeable chunk of the fee they paid Boro – it may be one we have to reluctantly take on the chin.
And I get those who consider that any potential money dangled in front of Sheffield Wednesday (and Rhodes himself) could be better utilised to strengthen the squad in other areas, but in the here and now I just have an inkling that the second half of this season could be Jordan Rhodes’ time.
Quite where this ends if – massive if – we do reach the Promised Land is unclear because financial (and striking) priorities will need re-evaluating, but already Rhodes’ contribution to this special season shouldn’t be underestimated.
If the planets align, this club could be on the cusp of something quite extraordinary and to get us over the line we’re going to need some heroes. I happen to think Jordan Rhodes is going to be one of them.