All he does is score, they said. You won’t notice him if he doesn’t. Well, a remarkable stat emerging this week shoots down both statements.
Instinct tells me Jordan Rhodes is storing up a headline or two for Sheffield Wednesday in the play-offs. Some might reckon it’s overdue.
But it’s a fact – as spotted by supporter “HirstWhoScoredIt” on fans’ site Owlstalk - that Rhodes has been on the field for EVERY goal the Owls have scored since his deadline-beating arrival.
Of their 26 subsequent goals, not one has been netted without the prestige strike capture (who, I believe, cost the full £10m asking price) being on the pitch.
Rhodes has figured in all 17 games, albeit mostly from the bench latterly. In three of those introductions, goals swiftly followed (v Newcastle, Derby and Ipswich).
So, although his personal haul of three is well below his career average, the former Huddersfield, Blackburn and Middlesbrough marksman IS making a sizeable contribution. Clearly, his mere presence occupies the opposition and releases other players.
The 27-year-old’s attitude and work ethic have been exemplary. He’s no goal-grabber just in it for the glory. But I have this feeling Rhodes’ finishing prowess could yet prove crucial.
The big hurdle has been cleared, but that little run-up to the play-offs is a twisty one. How to play it?
Win on Sunday against Fulham, who stay sixth whatever, and Wednesday could face the Londoners in the play-off semis. All fine in that finishing third above Reading (if they slip) would guarantee a second leg at Hillsborough – as they would from fourth.
But a projected meeting with Fulham at some stage surely means neither side wanting to show too much to each other in the final league game, certainly not the desired first-choice line-ups. Stay fourth and the Owls would meet Reading or Huddersfield.
Try unravelling that for preference and tactics. Except that you can expect Carlos Carvalhal to have it all worked out to give his side the best possible chance.
Two games ago, in a private aside to me, he remarked: “I think we will achieve before the Fulham game.” He had evidently foreseen Leeds’ continuing collapse and the results in between, including his team powering on to six successive wins.
Clever stuff and boxing clever is even more the name of the game right now. Congratulations to Carvalhal, Lee Bullen, his management team, the players and, last but not least, owner Dejphon Chansiri for reaching the play-offs for the second season running.
It was a taller order than the surprise push last year and a considerable achievement in the face of big expectations. Certainly, this must remove any lingering doubt about the head coach’s future, not that any existed within Hillsborough.
You can never rule out other clubs having designs on Carvalhal – it would be surprising if they didn’t – but he will not be sacked whatever happens. This has been understood and welcomed by insiders for a few weeks. And it has helped to create exactly the right mood for a triumphant run-in.