Why Jordan Rhodes' Sheffield Wednesday dream turned into a nightmare

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It was almost seven years ago that Jordan Rhodes announced himself to the Sheffield Wednesday public.

I remember sitting in awe and bewilderment in the Hillsborough press box as a confident, fearless Rhodes scored four times in an eight-goal thriller. It was a truly extraordinary, phenomenal performance by a young man who looked destined to reach the top.

Jordan Rhodes has completed his loan move to Norwich

Jordan Rhodes has completed his loan move to Norwich

And so began the Rhodes obsession.

It felt, at times, like his name was linked with the Owls pretty much every transfer window, even if he was way out of their price range.

Wednesdayites prayed, more in hope than expectation, that they would one day sign Rhodes.

But owner Dejphon Chansiri made the supporters dream a reality by adding Rhodes to their first-team ranks in February 2017. He initially arrived on loan from Middlesbrough but with an agreement in place stipulating the transfer would be turned into a permanent switch the following summer.

Rhodes scored seven times last season.

Rhodes scored seven times last season.

Rhodes said he was "chuffed to bits" to become an Owl.

"It's a club that I've held dear to my heart for a few years now," said Rhodes, who attended the 2016 Championship Play-Off Final when Wednesday lost 1-0 to Hull City at Wembley.

"I've got very good memories of playing at Hillsborough. I've always said that Hillsborough is my favourite away ground and to have it as a home ground, I'm really looking forward to playing there."

Wednesday and Rhodes should have been a match made in heaven.

Rhodes is Norwich's sixth summer signing.

Rhodes is Norwich's sixth summer signing.

Rhodes was familiar with the club, already knew some of his team-mates and his father Andy was the club's goalkeeping coach. He was not on his own which ought to have helped the settling in process.

Rhodes also had a big point to prove following a disappointing spell on Teeside where his career had stalled. As the video above showed, his lack of game time at Middlesbrough was a real source of frustration for him.

Joining Wednesday gave Rhodes a chance to get back playing and scoring goals for fun again. A chance to silence the detractors.

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Rhodes struggled to force his way into Jos Luhukay's plans

Rhodes struggled to force his way into Jos Luhukay's plans

There was pressure on Rhodes to make an instant impact. He cost a club-record £8m and was brought in for one reason and one reason only: to score the goals to fire Wednesday to the Premier League.

Although the Owls already had an abundance of strikers, Rhodes, a natural goal-scorer, was regarded as the final piece in the puzzle. Surely he would be the man to push them over the final hurdle?

Given Rhodes arrived with a big reputation and on a hefty salary, Wednesday expected to see an immediate return on their investment.

It initially looked like money well spent.

Rhodes made a telling contribution on his debut, providing the assist for Ross Wallace's strike in their hard-fought victory at Wigan Athletic.

Not only did Rhodes find the back of the net three times in his opening seven matches, a promising partnership appeared to be developing between him and Sam Winnall. Everything seemed rosy.

But the goals soon dried up for Rhodes and he lost his place in the team. Carlos Carvalhal struggled to get the best out of the Scotland international throughout his two-and-a-half-year tenure. He never made him the focal point of the team.

It was no shock whatsoever Rhodes was on the bench for their Play-Off Semi-Final duels with Huddersfield Town.

Wednesday arguably lost the tie when they took off Steven Fletcher and put Rhodes on in the second half of the second leg. The change upset the rhythm and balance of the Owls' team, with the Terriers managing to reclaim the initiative.

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One of big surprises of the night was Rhodes passing up the opportunity to take a penalty in the shootout. Some observers thought he would be a shoo-in to take a spot-kick in that pressure environment. They pointed to the fact he has taken a number of penalties in his career and has nearly 200 goals under his belt. They claimed it was his duty, as Wednesday's big-money signing, to step up and have one.

Yet people forget the last time Rhodes took a penalty he fluffed his lines. His effort from 12 yards was saved by Robert Green in the derby defeat to Leeds United. Maybe that was in the back of his mind heading into the Huddersfield shootout?

Either way, Rhodes was hung out to dry by his manager post match.

Carvalhal said Rhodes was not in the "right frame of mind" to take a penalty.

He said: "Rhodes did not want to take a penalty. He said that he was not confident to take the penalty so that is why.

“The worst that a coach can do is to force the player to take a penalty when he is not confident. That would be a mistake. Imagine you are the guys to take a penalty and I said ‘you take one’ and you say ‘I am not confident'”."

Rhodes was, in some quarters, unfairly made the scapegoat for the Owls falling short in the play-offs for the second year on the trot. Wednesday were knocked out because they were not good enough over two legs to get the job done against a spirited, well-coached Huddersfield side.

You can excuse Rhodes for not wanting to take a penalty but there is no defence for some of the below-par, unconvincing displays he has produced in a Wednesday shirt.

Too often Rhodes has looked off the pace, bereft of confidence and short on belief. Too many centre-halves easily shackled him.

Could Carvalhal have tried harder to build the team around the fox-in-the-box forward? Or should Rhodes have adapted the way he plays to the strengths of the team? The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle.

Anyone who has seen Rhodes in action will know he relies on good quality service from the midfield. He is not the type of forward who makes chances for himself. His team-mates have to do the 'donkey work'. It is in the 18-yard box where he comes alive. He is a poacher.

The supply line to Rhodes and the rest of the strikers could definitely have been better last season. Nonetheless, the Rhodes of old would certainly have converted more of the chances that were created. He kept on getting into great areas only for his finishing to let him down.

There used to be a ruthlessness about Rhodes at the business end of the pitch. A killer instinct in front of goal.

Now defenders enjoy facing Rhodes. He has lost his aura.

Has the price tag weighed heavily down on his shoulders? Only Rhodes can say for certain whether it has.

We have only seen fleeting glimpses of vintage Rhodes. It was thought his man of the match display against Hull City at the back end of the 2017/18 campaign would go some way towards winning over Jos Luhukay.

But Luhukay never really fancied Rhodes. The Dutchman took him off at half-time in matches and sometimes left him out of the matchday squad altogether. And Rhodes didn't play a single minute of the last two fixtures as Luhukay selected Fernando Forestieri, Lucas Joao and Atdhe Nuhiu in attack.

Wednesday took a risk in buying Rhodes but they genuinely believed he could be the difference between them going up or staying down.

However, he was unable to repay their faith, netting a paltry 10 goals in 55 outings. The gamble failed.

As this summer has progressed, it soon became apparent that the Owls needed to let Rhodes leave on loan to get his £30,000 plus wages off their payroll.

After lengthy negotiations, Norwich finally got their man on Tuesday, July 10. It is the best move for all parties.

Hopefully Rhodes will rediscover his goal-scoring touch at Carrow Road and return to S6 a refreshed, reinvigorated player.

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