The £8 million spent by Steve Kean on a player who had never played higher that the third division raised plenty of eyebrows, but the Scot has proved he can be one of the great British strikers of his generation
It is often said that, in the enticing world of the football league,a player always faces a great challenge in making the step up to the next division unless he possesses either exceptional talent or vast experience. Many have tried and failed; their careers being somewhat stunted by the failure to adapt.
One player who certainly has the natural flair and determination to not only make the switch – but to make it seem effortless – is Blackburn’s Jordan Rhodes.
Rhodes, 23, started his career with Ipswich town and has shown goal scoring prowess ever since his first season in English football. After less than a year with the tractor boys’ youth squad he was called up to the England Under-17 squad. His knack for scoring goals has been evident at all of Rhodes’ clubs, and he has proved his worth by shining at all levels from League Two to the Championship.
In 2011-12 whilst at Huddersfield Rhodes, who cost (recently departed) Simon Grayson’s team a mere £350,000, was in marvellous form. The Terriers had an astounding season, earning promotion to the Championship, and Rhodes set the standard. He registered a staggering 36 goals in 40 games, winning him the division’s player of the season award and earning him a call-up to the Scottish national team, for whom he qualifies having schooled there for over five years.
Last summer inevitable speculation surrounded Rhodes’ immediate future; would he stay with Huddersfield and attempt to prosper in he Championship alongside his longstanding team mates? Would he make the perilous step up two divisions to the Premier League (as was heavily touted) by joining Fulham?
Jermaine Beckford once decided to make this ambitious leap when joining Everton after having, like Rhodes, an impressive season in League One with a Yorkshire club.
This ultimately backfired for Beckford, whose career at Leicester City is currently in doubt. Rhodes sensibly chose not to follow the same steps as Beckford, but instead to join recently relegated Blackburn in a deal which could accumulate to £8 million. The record fee for a Championship player, this was seen by many as crazy money but he has proved doubters wrong by showing that he is a top striker.
With a hectic series of events occurring off the pitch at Ewood Park, Rhodes has managed to prove to the club they were right to invest so much money in him. By scoring an impressive 20 goals already, he has won over fans and lead us to pose ourselves the question: ‘Would Jordan Rhodes make it in the Premier League?’
From watching Rhodes this season, I, for one, can make the assumption that he demonstrates all the qualities required by a top flight striker. He has a wide variety of traits: aerial prowess, which he demonstrated in 2009, when he scored a hat trick of headers in an astonishing 8 minutes; robustness; great movement; shrewd anticipation and most importantly superb finishing ability.
The young man is improving rapidly, and unless Michael Appleton’s team can re-establish themselves in the Premier League, it would be a surprise if Rhodes saw out his 5 year contract with Blackburn.
If he does seek pastures new, global advisor Shebby Singh and his friends at Venky’s would be adamant on at least recouping the £8 million – which now seems to be a bargain. There is no doubt in my mind that Rhodes will be playing in the Premiership before too long.
With Arsenal’s lack of an out-and-out centre forward capable of replacing Robin van Persie, I feel Arsene Wenger could do a lot worse than bringing the Scot to The Emirates, despite his inexperience.
That undoubtedly would be a big leap for Rhodes, who is progressing rapidly. I look forward to seeing him form a partnership with another striker in top form, Steven Fletcher, for a Scotland team under new management.
Wherever he ends up, the future is definitely bright for Jordan Rhodes.
Written by Richard Burn
Follow him on Twitter @richard_burn15
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