Comment: Sheffield Wednesday's new manager has a decision to make over the future of Jordan Rhodes
There will be few people keeping a closer eye on those jostling for position in the Sheffield Wednesday managerial race than Jordan Rhodes.
The Wednesday poacher returned to Hillsborough this summer with a Championship winners medal draped around his neck after spending last season at Norwich City.
And he’s spent it largely in limbo, a focal point in the club’s attempts to reduce a badly swollen squad and raise a few million quid.
Hurled a little cruelly in front of fans at Owls in the Park, he diligently sidestepped questions about the forthcoming season, seemingly none-the-wiser as to his likely paymasters come August 3.
And over a month later, with managerless Wednesday in more than a little limbo themselves, the picture remains as clear as custard. Today he was linked with a move to cash-strapped QPR, while rustlings north of the border have suggested a loan to Rangers.
Whoever eventually settles himself into the Hillsborough hotseat has a decision to make, that is for sure.
A commonly held belief among fans and pundits alike is that all Rhodes requires to produce the goods is time on the pitch and adequate service. Three pre-season goals in as many starts has thrown fuel on that fire, and many Wednesday fans are firmly behind the idea that he should be welcomed back for one last shot at Owls success.
But it appears his powers have waned. Rhodes’ goals-per-game ratio in first team football before his 2015 move to Middlesbrough was better than a goal every other game. Since then, he has scored just once every five-and-a-half.
There are caveats to those stats, of course, the main one being that dotted around injuries and changes of manager, a much higher percentage of those latter appearances have been made from the bench. The question for the next Wednesday boss is this – does Rhodes represent a goal machine that needs a little oiling, or one that has rusted beyond repair?
An in-form poacher, one with over 200 football league goals under his belt, could well be worth a shot. At 29, Rhodes should be entering the peak years of his career, but with the landscape of modern football now increasingly obsessed with ‘shutting down ball-playing defenders with high presses’ and ‘unlocking low blocks’, it may be that the role of old-school poacher is becoming something of a relic.
Just last month two of Rhodes’ former teammates described him as a “frightening goalscorer”, but admitted he was a “luxury player”, and said that “when he doesn’t score, it’s like playing with ten men.”
Steve Bruce was clear in his belief that Wednesday have too many forwards and that Rhodes was one he would have moved on. A new pair of eyes in the manager’s office could offer him a whole new lease of life.