Since Blackburn Rovers signed Jordan Rhodes in the summer of 2012, not a transfer window has passed without rumour of his imminent departure to bigger and better things, and this most recent window was no different – except in the fact that an actual bid was lodged, by Hull City.
Thankfully, the club knocked the offer back and where quick to issue a press release on the club website stating that he was not for sale (or words to that degree). For once this showed that the owners do understand the fans and what they want for the club, and perhaps more importantly, that they also see him as the future of the club, and a key figure if Blackburn are to push for the play-offs and back to the big time. This is yet another example of how the Venkys have changed over the last 12-18 months, and how they are making an effort to turn the club around, and they deserve some praise for this.
The offer from Hull was thought to be in the £12m region, a figure which I believed would force Venkys hands and sell him to, a) gain profit on what they paid for him, and b) get him off the wage bill and help satisfy the Financial Fair Play vultures hovering over Ewood Park. However, rumour has it that of the £8m Rovers spent on the Scot, £4m of this is still owed to Huddersfield, and they also have a 25% sell on clause – meaning that Blackburn would receive somewhere in the region of £5m for him – I don’t think anyone would argue that the club deserve more than that for their star asset seeing as he has made the step up from League One to Championship seamlessly – although they made their bed with the sell on clause and ultimately still owe the outstanding amount.
Perhaps what is more positive in the wider footballing world is that Rhodes only signed a new contract last month, and upon hearing of Hull’s interest, and the opportunity to play in the top flight as well as Europe (at time of going to press!), he did not force the clubs hand by putting in a transfer request. This, I believe, is a measure of the man. Since signing for Blackburn in 2012 he has picked up only 2 yellow cards; you will never see him moaning at officials or team mates; you will never see him get the hump with not being picked for Scotland; and, you will never hear about him in the news or on the front page of the paper. According to all accounts, he is more than happy at Ewood and would like to play in the Premier League with them having helped them get there. He is a rarity – a twenty-plus goal a season striker who has consistently delivered season on season, is in demand, commands a relatively high wage, but never brags about any of these things or uses them as a tool to bargain with. That said, if he was to make the step up to the Premier League away from Blackburn, Hull would probably be ideal – none of the big City lights and he would be able to go about his business continuing to keep his own council.
You could say that Jordan Rhodes is an ideal role model for any up and coming young strikers – at the age of 24 he has had no fewer than 6 clubs (including loan spells) and at the tender age of 22 he was released by Roy Keane from boyhood club Ipswich without even an explanation, but instead of feeling sorry for himself and fading away, he used it to make him stronger, saying in 2013 that in hindsight Keane had “done him a favour”.
Another reason for the collective sigh of relief in Blackburn when Bruce said he had abandoned hope of signing him, is because Blackburn are somewhat short of strikers at the minute. The current roster includes only Rudy Gestede, Chris Brown and Luke Varney, in addition to Rhodes. Gestede has started the season well, but the others remain somewhat untested at the club. The worrying thing for me is the youth development aspect of the position. At most clubs up and down the country, fans will be aware of a youngster playing in the reserves or the development squad, who they are excited about making a push for a place in the first team – this is not the case at Ewood, and has not been for some time.
Blackburn have always produced good young defenders, many of whom have gone on to bigger and better things. A case in point is Phil Jones – he was outstanding for Blackburn and was rightly given his chance at the top top level with Manchester United. When asked who would replace him at the back, a number of the senior players said Grant Hanley was the man for the job – at first this was laughed off as he had yet to hold down a position in the starting eleven, let alone a place. However, hindsight is a wonderful thing, and now he is the club captain and, when fit, one of the first names on the team sheet. The same cannot be said for the development of youngsters in the attacking positions.
Looking back over the past 15 years, how many young strikers could you name who originated at Blackburn and went on to do have successful careers, not just at Ewood? It is a difficult question – many will quote Matt Derbyshire, who went on to play Champions League football for Olympiakos, but he was signed at the age of 17, arguably when a lot of the development had been done. The only other player I can think of, is Jonathon Walters, currently at Stoke, who joined the club at 16. For a club the size of Blackburn Rovers with the fantastic academy facilities available and the relative success at this level, surely they should be producing more promising young forwards worthy, at least, of a place on the bench? This would not only help with the limited number of strikers currently at the club, but it would also create a buzz with the supporters, it would be a lower salary option, and it would be a wildcard (to start with) which other teams would not be 100% familiar with. When a youngster comes through the ranks it excites the supports and creates a bit of belief – something that can only help with a promotion push. And at a time when we are all too aware of the impacts of over spending on wages, this could be a brilliant solution – the question is: is there anyone in the youth development team ready to make the step up? (If you can think of any other successful striker who came through the ranks at Blackburn – answers on a post card!)
Moving back to the topic of Jordan Rhodes – Steve Bruce may have publically stated that he will be looking elsewhere for a striker, but not before a slight dig at the club, claiming that they had initially mused that they would be willing to sell Rhodes for the right price, but then went back on this. Bruce may have walked away, but he could potentially have unsettled the player – first of all by showing an interest and placing a bid, and secondly, by saying that there is someone at the club who believes Rhodes is a saleable asset. It will be interested how the developed towards the end of this window, and perhaps more so in the next window. It would not surprise me if the new contract signed by Rhodes last month contains a clause containing something about him being allowed to talk to clubs next summer, if Blackburn do not achieve promotion. To be honest, I think this is only fair. He has been the best player at the club for the last two years and without his goals in his first term we would have been relegated, and last season, his goals all but got us in to the play-offs; let’s hope this time we can go one better.