Both on and off the pitch, nobody embodies the spirit and likability of this Norwich City team quite like the brilliant Jordan Rhodes
As I undertook my daily scroll through Twitter during my lunch break at work on Thursday, a striking statistic caught my eye.
That statistic concerned Jordan Rhodes. Jordan Rhodes, City’s saviour against Aston Villa on an evocative Tuesday evening under the lights at Carrow Road and a man who appears to be coming of age in our beloved yellow and green.
Rhodes – a man who had largely been forgotten about as a football league force after a couple of dry seasons at Middlesbrough and Sheffield Wednesday – has scored the most goals of any player in England’s top four divisions since the beginning of the 2009/10 season. Twenty-five more than Sergio Aguero. Over forty more than Charlie Austin. Nearly fifty more than Brighton’s Glenn Murray, a player who seems to have been around and scoring goals forever.
Credit to TalkNorwichCity founder and good friend Jack Reeve for bringing it to my attention. Although many of Rhodes’ 174 EFL goals may have been scored in the depths of the third tier, the point remains that his clinical nature and inherent eye for goal still endures to the present day.
Such a goal scoring instinct manifested itself so visibly on Tuesday night. Rhodes’ brace and all-round performance against Dean Smith’s Villa was nothing short of magnificent, the physics behind his winner still baffling me forty-eight hours on. Yes, the fluid and well-documented passing move that preceded it was superb, but the way that Rhodes managed to divert the ball past Orjan Nyland at his near post would surely be beyond the measuring capabilities of even the most precise protractor.
Rhodes deserved the limelight in front of the Sky cameras. Despite only scoring two league goals prior to the game against Villa, his performances since the beginning of the season have been characterised by a relentless tirelessness, continually dropping deep to hold the ball up and winning almost every header he challenges for. With Teemu Pukki absent, he really is such an important player for this current City side.
However, what is most impressive about Rhodes – even more so than his dead-eye finishing and commitment to working indefatigably for the team – is his attitude and persona off the pitch.
Our recruit from Sheffield Wednesday is such a likeable character. Similarly to a lot of our squad, he understands what fans love to see. In short, he just seems to get it.
“I’m a Canary now” was his opening chirp during his inaugural Norwich City interview, an impudent yet brilliant line that was succeeded with a clear wave to the away end at St Andrew’s when ‘Jordan Rhodes is one of us, he hates Ipswich’ echoed down from the terraces.
At Bramall Lane later that month, Rhodes gave the most raucous section of a partisan home crowd a shameless salute as he celebrated equalising against the local rivals of his parent club. Naturally, he received a subsequent earful from dozens of riled south Yorkshiremen. Would Rhodes have cared? Not in the slightest.
But, aside from his provocative exploits, it is Rhodes’ utter professionalism and attitude that I find most impressive. Look at the way in which he has patiently waited for his opportunity while Pukki was scoring City’s goals, the way in which he gave his Finnish team-mate a congratulatory nod of approval at Loftus Road at he replaced him during the second-half. Rhodes, unlike a certain other City striker, is a proper team player.
His post-match interview with Chris Goreham this week said it all, sentiments that inevitably warmed the heart of every City fan and ones that perfectly captured the current feeling around this marvellous football club.
“There’s a real warmth around,” Rhodes said. “I feel like I can talk to anyone, and I’m loving every minute of being here.” Most of all – and what renders Rhodes one of my favourite City players of recent times – he just seems like a really, really nice bloke.
But this article is not solely an ode to Rhodes. His performances, attitude and words function as testament to the terrific work Stuart Webber, Daniel Farke and our coaches are undertaking here, fostering a genuine environment of unity and togetherness that is finally coming to fruition on the pitch. All of the squad look happy. They all work relentlessly for one other. They really do all look so proud whenever they pull on that yellow and green jersey.
Rhodes, however, serves as the best example of this trend. His persona both on and off the pitch must be viewed in conjunction, representing a microcosm of what is going on behind the scenes and the genuinely feel-good environment that is transcending the fields of Colney and the turf of Carrow Road.
There’s more to Rhodes than just his scoring. He loves the fans, he loves his team-mates, and – most importantly – he loves the club. He truly does represent one of City’s greatest assets. Whether or not he hates Ipswich, we’ll never know, but one thing is for certain: Jordan Rhodes is one of us.