HIS name may be one of the most familiar in English football outside the Premier League due to the phenomenal run of form that brought 35 goals for club and country before the end of January.
But, on meeting Jordan Rhodes, the most striking aspect is just how ordinary Huddersfield Town’s scoring star is in the flesh.
‘Ordinary’ in the nicest sense of the word, too, with the 21-year-old being perhaps the most grounded and well-mannered footballer the Yorkshire Post has met all season. Or, for that matter, several seasons.
This much was brought home the moment Rhodes walked into the main dining area at Town’s Canalside training complex yesterday lunchtime and offered his hand. “Hi, I’m Jordan.”
This totally unnecessary greeting is one he regularly extends when meeting someone for the first time, revealing not only an unassuming personality but also the kind of humility that is sadly so often missing in footballers with even a fraction of Rhodes’s talent.
Such a level-headed attitude is why Town chairman Dean Hoyle and manager Lee Clark were able to say with such confidence that Rhodes would not be leaving during the January transfer window, there being no danger of the striker kicking up a stink and demanding a late move to one of the Premier League clubs whose scouts have become regulars at the Galpharm Stadium this season.
“I do try to be a level-headed person,” admits the striker, 22 tomorrow, once we have taken our seats in the bay window of the dining room. “It is important to remain nice and polite to people because you never know what is round the corner.
“That sort of thing has come from my mum and dad. They have told me not to say anything stupid as, in life, it will have a habit of coming back and biting you on the behind. I listen to my family a lot as, whatever happens in life and how well or badly things go, your family are there for you regardless.”
Rhodes is not only a parents’ dream but also a manager’s. Not only has the Scotland international never provided a minute’s problem for Clark since moving north from Ipswich Town in the summer of 2009 but he has also matured into his most reliable performer, as 29 goals in Town colours this season vividly illustrates.
Such a phenomenal return from just 26 appearances is why a host of clubs from the two divisions above Huddersfield spent the transfer window trying to prise the striker away. They were never going to have any success, not after Hoyle sat down with Rhodes in November and was told the striker had no intention of going anywhere.
However, as reassuring as the promises coming out of the Galpharm were, there was no denying the sense of relief among Terriers fans when the transfer deadline passed last Tuesday.
Rhodes, though, is quick to stress that there was never any chance of him leaving.
He said: “February 1 didn’t make any difference to me and January was just like any normal month, where I got on with playing and training and trying to make myself better.
“The speculation about me has been just that, speculation. No-one associated with Huddersfield thought anything about it, as was the case for me. I was just focusing everything on being ready to play if the manager selected me and then giving my all.
“I don’t know what went on or what got said between clubs. All I knew and know is that Huddersfield Town are a great football club and I love coming into training every day.
“I have lived in a few places in my life (the Rhodes family moved around due to Jordan’s dad Andy being a professional footballer) but the last two-and-a-half years have been in Huddersfield and I am enjoying every minute of it. It is a great place.
“Living back up in Yorkshire is great, too. More importantly, life on and off the field has been good as that is what every footballer wants. I am happy here.
“There is a good, family feel about the club. The key, of course, is matching the good things off the pitch with what is happening on it and we are doing that.”
Huddersfield’s position in League One is certainly promising, Clark’s side sitting second in the table with 54 points. Sheffield Wednesday, where Rhodes’s dad Andy is goalkeeping coach, sit just behind the Terriers on goal difference with Steel City rivals United a further point behind in fourth,
Completing the four-way scrap for the second automatic place behind runaway leaders Charlton Athletic is Milton Keynes Dons, who are today’s visitors.
Rhodes said: “MK Dons are a really good side with a lot of good players. They also signed Alan Smith this week. We are very aware of how good they are.
“It is up to us to maintain our level of discipline and be ready to fight them in every area of the pitch. It might not be a classic, but we have to be right on our game.
“League One is a very exciting division, particularly for us here in Yorkshire because we have three teams in and around the mix of five.
“People might not necessarily be a Huddersfield Town fan or a fan of the two Sheffield clubs but I would imagine they will still find it exciting. Leeds, Barnsley or Doncaster fans all seem to be interested in which of the Yorkshire teams go up from our division.
“It is great for the area and a boost for everyone, even the neutrals.”
Today’s fixture is the first of four home games for the Terriers against their main rivals for automatic promotion and, once again, all eyes will be on Rhodes.
He said: “I don’t go out thinking I am going to score, not at all. There is a job you have to do as a striker, first and foremost.
“If up front on your own, you have to work hard – whether that is to get a goal, an assist or just block a clearance. Fortunately, the goals have come of late but I won’t be displeased if I don’t score against MK Dons but we win the game.
“The name on the scoresheet doesn’t matter, just the result.”