Pressure. What pressure?
If Jordan Rhodes was feeling the heat following his high-profile move to Sheffield Wednesday, he, and head coach Carlos Carvalhal, did a good job of hiding it yesterday.
Rhodes and Carvalhal were coolness personified when quizzed by the local and national press on the eve of their trip to relegation-threatened Wigan Athletic.
Big things are expected of Rhodes, who will become the most expensive player in the club’s history when he joins the Owls on a full-time basis in the summer. He has initially joined on loan until the end of the season but has agreed on a four-and-a-half-year contract.
When asked how it feels to be the most expensive signing in the region, Rhodes replied: “That’s quite flattering, I’ve not heard that before.
“It’s strange really because you think back to when you were a kid and playing around leagues in Barnsley and playing against Young Owls and you grow up and have that tag against you, it’s humbling. Never did I think one day that would be the case. I guess that’s what I’ve been aiming towards all my life. I’m not going to rest, I’ll work harder than I’ve ever done before to try and get this club where it needs to be.”
It has been a frustrating 12 months for Rhodes. He is desperate to make an instant impact for the Owls after struggling to hold down a regular first-team place at Middlesbrough.
The Scotland international, the son of Wednesday goalkeeping coach Andy, has only made six appearances this campaign and has not featured since December 14.
Rhodes, who travelled to watch the Owls’ Championship Play-Off Final defeat to Hull City last May, said: “I love playing football. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do and when you cant do that on a Saturday afternoon and even worse you cant be a part of this, it hurts.
“You are sat there on a Saturday and see everything come in and you feel quite distant from football. It has been tough, I’ve tried to keep myself ticking over mentally and physically.
“I’ve taken coaching badges just to keep going something and keep active and not let myself get into a spiral and a bad state. I’d like to think I’ve kept myself in good physical condition with swimming and things like that and hopefully the gap wont be too big when the manager calls up on me.”
All eyes will be on Rhodes when the Owls head to Wigan Athletic today and Carvalhal has spoken of the importance of providing the 26-year-old with good service.
“We don’t put pressure on our strikers to score goals,” he said. “Our players are focused on team work and then after the goals will be the consequence of the dynamic.
“We are excited about Jordan because we know he is a good striker and is a team worker.
“We have upgraded the team with a good player and we are very happy to bring in a player of this quality to the squad.
“But he will not play on his own. It will depend on the team.”
Carvalhal admitted Rhodes was someone who the club “monitored” for some time and revealed he held talks with chairman Dejphon Chansiri over the possibility of recruiting him at the start of January.
Carvalhal believes the Owls are “lucky” to have brought in a player of Rhodes’ calibre. Aston Villa tried to sign him earlier in January but Boro rejected their offer. Villa pulled out of the running after refusing to the Teesiders valuation.
Had a rival club met the Premier League’s demands, Wednesday may have missed out on Rhodes.
“This is a player that all the teams want,” said Carvalhal. “I remember talking to the chairman and we knew that with this kind of player you just have one chance.
“It was part lucky. If someone wanted to buy him at the beginning of the month and put in the money, we wouldn’t have had any chance.
“If you have a chance to sign a player like Jordy, if we have a chance to sign a player like Jordy, it must be in the last minute.
“We waited for the opportunity and it’s the Sheffield Wednesday style that we achieved a fantastic player.”
He praised Thai businessman Chansiri for sanctioning the transfer and getting the deal completed before Tuesday’s deadline.
Carvalhal said: “It was a fantastic business by our chairman. He achieved a player at the last minute in fantastic conditions - and the numbers are not the numbers that we saw in the press, absolutely sure!
“Our chairman is very clever. He’s a very successful businessman and he did a fantastic deal with Jordan.”
Wednesday have assembled one of the most expensive squads in the division so does Carvalhal feel under anymore pressure to lead the club to promotion after capturing Rhodes?
“I don’t feel under any pressure,” he said. “I’m happy to achieve good players.
“If you ask me if I wanted Jordan at the beginning of the season, I wish of course.
“But to me, the pressure is all the time the same.
“We have a game to play on Friday with Jordan. We are trying to do our best to win the games.
“If you ask me if we are more strong than we were in the last game, then I will say ‘yes, of couse.’