Alan Biggs’ Sheffield Wednesday column: Door may be open for Jordan Rhodes to return
When Jordan Rhodes came to Sheffield Wednesday he was effectively told to adjust to the team. It never happened.
While one player is never bigger than the team, it is clear that this is one to whom you have to play to his strengths or it won’t work.
It may be no more than coincidence that Steve Bruce’s preferred style appears to dovetail with Rhodes’ needs.
But there is an increasing sense of promise about new beginnings for both the team and one of its most intriguing – and potentially most influential – components.
The sacrificing of Gary Hooper, the biggest name among six seniors released, was another possible pointer to Rhodes having a fresh chance at Hillsborough under a manager who has been a long-time admirer of the once-prolific former Huddersfield and Blackburn striker. I also think Rhodes could have the perfect partner in Steven Fletcher, much as no combination in which he featured worked out in the past. Rhodes is not a naturally strong leader of the line.
He’s more a predator. Fletcher looks ideally suited to taking the weight off him after some outstanding target man work last season ... providing the delivery to both is regular and rapid.
This is where Bruce’s pursuit of more thrust in wide positions knits perfectly with rekindling the talent of a marksman, still only 29, who boasts a remarkable 218 career goals.
Only seven have been scored for Wednesday, leading to the £8m club record signing of 2017 being loaned to promoted Norwich last season where he figured only fleetingly but still netted nine. Everything pointed back to Hillsborough, as this column argued around the time of Bruce’s arrival.
Now former Owls boss Chris Turner is also convinced, telling me: “Jordan’s been disappointing but he’ll have another chance under Steve, I’d have thought.
“He was signed to a team that passed the ball backwards and square, kept possession for a long time.
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“He needs balls fired constantly into the box from wide and if you do that, Jordan will score goals.
“He’s not a link player or a player that wants to drop deep into midfield (as Hooper often did). He’s a box man. You’ve got to supply him.”
Turner, pointing to Sheffield United’s promotion, added: “It’s not rocket science. Chris Wilder plays a style that’s fast and attacking, getting balls into the area. That’s what wins matches and wins crowds back. I know Steve wants to play like that.”
Moses Odubajo, a right back who can play right wing, seems to fit the profile perfectly amid strong suggestions of Bruce re-uniting with a former member of his Hull City team.
Meanwhile, the move for German left-side defender Julian Börner appears to reflect the difficulty of bringing back Michael Hector from Chelsea.
Finally, reports of Wednesday pricing Fernando Forestieri at £14m (amid speculation of Sheffield United interest) is hopefully a perception rather than the reality. It’s an example for me of the kind of thinking the club has had to snap out of.
Overpricing players and ring-fencing them surely contributed to the Owls’ problems with Profitability and Sustainability.
Even if means were found to ease this squeeze in the short term – for instance, unconfirmed but undenied and highly feasible rumours of a stadium sale - normal trading (buying AND selling) is the only way to prevent any recurrence down the line.
I feel Bruce’s input on how the club’s own players are valued is every bit as vital as his lead on the recruitment front. And his desire to trim down the squad can only be achieved with trading both ways.