A ONE-man team? Not on your nelly.
Huddersfield Town, who next weekend slug it out with Sheffield United for the right to compete in the Championship, correctly bristle at suggestions they owe their place in the League One play-off final solely to the wizardry of Jordan Rhodes.
But there seems little doubt that the Scotland international, whose efforts this season mean he is unlikely to be sporting the famous light blue and white stripes come August irrespective of how the Wembley showpiece unfolds, will dominate much of Danny Wilson’s thinking over the coming days.
Representatives of Manchester United, Sunderland and Bolton Wanderers were among those who watched Rhodes score his 40th goal of the season during the second leg of Town’s semi-final with MK Dons earlier this week. Pointedly, perhaps, Fulham dispatched their senior scout to The Galpharm Stadium where he rubbed shoulders with Wilson’s assistant, Frank Barlow, and Billy Dearden in the directors’ box.
Wigan Athletic number two Graeme Jones was also present together with the likes of Eddie Howe (Burnley), Graham Westley (Preston North End), Richie Barker (Bury), Greg Abbott (Carlisle), Ian Wilcox (Barnsley) and Tommy Wright (Chesterfield), although the latter six are likely to have been running the rule over less expensive targets.
Rhodes, who on average has found the back of the net once every 1.1 games since last summer, netted in each of Town’s tussles with Karl Robinson’s side suggesting he has rediscovered his touch following a five-match drought.
But while, at first glance, those statistics will make uncomfortable reading for Wilson and his staff, they should also be a source of encouragement too.
Rhodes, who is responsible for 46 per cent of Town’s efforts during the present campaign, has failed to pounce in either of the West Yorkshire club’s two previous meetings with United, a record which suggests United’s preferred central defensive pairing of Neill Collins and Harry Maguire possess qualities capable of negating the 22-year-old’s threat. Or, at the very least, stifling it.
Nevertheless, just as Ched Evans was not the only reason why United cut such a dash throughout the regular 2011/12 season, Wilson’s counterpart, Simon Grayson, has other dangerous performers at his disposal.
One footballer can embellish a team. But they do not make it.
So the march of both United and Town towards Wembley should be celebrated by anyone with a sliver of respect for football’s traditions.
The play-offs are a wonderful spectacle for television. But they are no way to decide promotion.
Which is why, having finished nine points ahead of Town over the course of 46 games, Wilson’s third-placed charges deserve to triumph in the capital. And also why Town, who came fourth, deserve their moment on the big stage ahead of Dons (fifth) and Stevenage (sixth).
No matter creditably those two performed.