The Colossus of Jordan Rhodes: Part 2 - Huddersfield Town's gain
Part Two of our three-part look at Huddersfield Town’s goalscoring gem is written by Marco Jackson.
Jordan Rhodes is a phenomenon; there’s no other way to describe him. His goal in Huddersfield’s 2-2 draw at Notts County was his 22nd goal for the team this season, in 22 appearances. This follows on from scoring 22 last season, and 23 the season before that. He knows where the goal is and is finding it more and more as he gets older. He is 21 years old.
That’s not all Jordan Rhodes is, though. Here’s a little of what we know of Jordan the player and the man. Ipswich fans miss him; his departure is regarded as one of Roy Keane’s biggest mistakes. Brentford fans seem proud of him; maybe of their part in polishing the gem he has become. Huddersfield fans are grateful he is still with them, and hopeful he will still be when the transfer window closes.
Craig Levein, his manager at international level, commented on how ‘down to earth and well-mannered’ Jordan was when he met up with the squad for his debut. Stewart Houston, who trains Scotland Under-21s, compared him to Ally McCoist and Charlie Nicholas – high praise indeed. Any television interview you see – and you’ll see more and more – shows a man who seems genuinely happy to be playing football, and happy with what he’s doing. I think I’d describe it as refreshing; however you see it, long may it continue.
Rhodes joined Huddersfield in July 2009, and in his first season was part of the flamboyant young guns (Pilkington, Peltier, Smithies et al) who fell in the play-offs at Millwall. More often than not that season, Jordan was withdrawn from the fray – he played 90 minutes just 20 times – and ended up scoring 19 league goals; his first came as a substitute at Southend, on his debut, and he never really stopped, save for a six-match spell in February and March during which he failed to find the net.
That spell was Jordan’s longest run of 90-minute appearances, as it happens, so there may well have been something wise in his man-management. There was an 8/11 split in his goals during the 2009/10 season between head and foot, which is an important point to note; he isn’t a big man by any means, but his heading ability is very, very impressive – all contortion of the neck and deft touches. He has, after all, scored the fastest headed hat-trick in Football League history.
The next season, 2010/11, saw another play-off disappointment, and only six full matches. That didn’t stop the goals coming, though. There were another 16 league strikes, with a 12/4 split between feet and head. It also saw Jordan pick up an ankle ligament injury early in 2011, though he returned in a 1-1 draw at Dagenham and went on to score six more goals before the end of the season. That form saw him called up to the Scotland Under-21 squad, and he made his debut – the first of six games for them – before the summer.
A pattern emerged of Jordan starting well, but cooling off a little over the winter – after eight or so games of 2009/10, both he and Theo Robinson were scoring more than a goal a game – but last season, perhaps because he missed that time with injury and could rest, or perhaps because Alan Lee was brought in to take some of the more physical treatment, the effect seemed lessened. Jordan kept going, right up to the point where he was mystifyingly left out in the play-off final (he played nine minutes, coming on when it was too late).
This brings us neatly back to this season and the new, improved Jordan Rhodes. He started the season, as we have come to expect, by scoring goals. This led to him continuing to represent Scotland both at Under-21 (thus missing the FA Cup defeat at Swindon) and eventually full international level. Importantly, though, compared to other seasons, he is playing 90 minutes far more now – 14 of those 22 appearances for Town have lasted the distance. By the time Huddersfield got to Charlton, the game was billed as a shootout between Rhodes and Bradley Wright-Phillips – a shootout neither won.
That game seemed to light the blue touch-paper for Jordan. He went on to score all four Town goals in a 4-4 draw with Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough. He’s also scored six times for Scotland’s Under-21 team – he’s their leading goalscorer of all time – in only six games. In addition to the four in Sheffield, there have been braces, hat-tricks and scarcely believable goalscoring feats along the way. Let’s take a look at the numbers…