Lethal Rhodes is benchmark for Owls striker Lavery to emulate

Owls' Caolan Lavery
Owls' Caolan Lavery
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Rookie striker Caolan Lavery comes face to face today with £8m forward Jordan Rhodes when the in-form duo will need no introductions.

The Sheffield Wednesday striker was a raw 16-year-old at Ipswich Town when Rhodes was attempting to make a name for himself in the first team.

The decision by then Ipswich manager Roy Keane to sell Rhodes to Huddersfield Town – a surprise move which still rankles with fans of the Suffolk club – looked even more ludicrous when he quickly became a goalscoring star in West Yorkshire.

After loan spells at footballing outposts like Oxford, Rochdale and Brentford, Rhodes quickly became one of the most feared strikers outside of the Premier League.

In 108 starts for the Terriers he netted 73 times – including a stunning four-goal haul at Hillsborough in a 4-4 draw – which earned him an £8m move to Blackburn Rovers.

Today the Lancashire club are back at Wednesday – where Jordan’s father Andy Rhodes is the goalkeeping coach – with Lavery unsurprised by his former team-mate’s success.

“I was at Ipswich with him, but not for long,” said Canadian Lavery, who has just signed a new long-term Owls contract after breaking into the first team this season. “I signed as a first-year scholar as he was leaving the club, under Roy Keane.

“I trained with him for a few weeks before he left for Huddersfield. It was a long time ago.

“Everyone always knew there was something about Jordan Rhodes. He was always in and around the first team at Ipswich, everyone knew he had something. Obviously, it just didn’t work out for him at the time.”

Lavery has been a regular under head coach Stuart Gray, even if he has had to adapt to a wide berth in the Owls’ set-up.

But his eye for a goal and quick-thinking are reminiscent of a young Rhodes, and the 21-year-old – who netted braces in Hillsborough wins over Leeds United and Birmingham City – admits he hopes to emulate his former Portman Road team-mate.

“I would like to think we have similar games, I would like to do as much as he has,” said Lavery.

“He’s obviously a very good goalscorer.”

Lavery – who will jet home to Canada this summer to 
visit his family – has impressed at Hillsborough this season since returning from a successful loan spell at Plymouth Argyle under ex-Owl John Sheridan.

After surviving on 12-month deals, he is just relieved to have 
finally earned some stability with a long-term contract.

“It was on the cards for a while, we just had to work out a few things,” said the Northern Ireland Under-21 striker. “I am definitely really happy to be here for the next little while.

“I’m happy it’s cleared up so I can get back to focusing on playing well again.

“Up until this point, I have only ever had one-year contracts. So you are always looking over your shoulder to see what’s coming behind you, looking ahead to see if you can do better than them.

“So to have a bit of stability will be good and help me personally, to get my head down and work harder to do better for Wednesday.

“On a personal note, this season has been good for me – to finally get in the team, play a handful of games and score some goals.

“I am just glad to be playing. I have been playing on the wing, having not really played there much before, but I am just happy to be playing. I would like to go back up front at some point, but that’s the gaffer’s choice.”

Wednesday will today look to break the 50-point barrier after picking up just a solitary point from their last three games.

They were thrashed by Watford 4-1 in their last Hillsborough match, were pipped 2-1 by newly-promoted Leicester City, then tossed away a 3-1 lead on Tuesday evening at 10-man Nottingham Forest to come out with a 3-3 draw.

“It was massively frustrating not to win at Forest,” reflected Lavery. “We were 3-1 up and we should have held on.

“It was disappointing, there wasn’t much said between the lads in the dressing room, we were all upset after the game.”

Midfielder Sam Hutchinson could return after knee injury, but on-loan striker Leon Best is not allowed to play against his parent club. Defender Glenn Loovens is out while Oguchi Onyewu faces a late fitness test.

Last six: Sheffield Wednesday WLWLLD, Blackburn DDDDWW.

Last time: Sheffield Wednesday 3 Blackburn Rovers 2; April 6, 2013; Championship.

Referee: F Graham (Essex).