Rhodes to glory

Huddersfield starlet talks exclusively to skysports.com

Jordan Rhodes: Talks exclusively to skysports.com (Pic credit JA Holtom)

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Graeme Bailey catches up with Scotland starlet Jordan Rhodes as he gears up for the biggest day of his footballing career to date.

Rhodes is one of the most feared strikers in England, outside the Premier League, and he has been rewarded with a call-up to the senior Scottish squad after starring for Billy Stark's Under-21s.

The Huddersfield Town striker has bagged 13 goals in just 15 appearances this season, making him one of the most talked about players in English football.

Rhodes is one of those players who has come through the system, but his earlier career was shaped by somebody else's footballing life - his goalkeeper dad Andy.

Rhodes followed his dad to Ipswich after being part of the Barnsley youth set-up, and the rest is history...

"My dad got relocated with his job, as is a footballers life," Rhodes told skysports.com.

"You move about everywhere, that is what happens in this business, Joe Royle gave him the job there and I moved down from Barnsley.

"Barnsley, rightly or wrongly as you look at it, got compensated so both parties were happy, that was ages ago and I knew there was still lots of hard work to do, as I still have.

"I have always been very grateful for the coaches at Ipswich for what they have done, they have got a great record for bringing through young players such as Titus Bramble, Kieron Dyer, Darren Bent and Darren Ambrose - they have brought through some tremendous talents, but also the Barnsley coaches for the hard work they put in with me.

"I have got so much respect and admiration for Ipswich, I didn't know what it would be like at 15 moving down, but I settled down in school - as I wanted to keep that going just in case I didn't get taken on, but luckily I went to a great club with a great academy."

Loans

Rhodes spent time on loan in the lower leagues with Oxford, Rochdale and Brentford and he admits that was an essential part of his learning curve in football.

"I certainly think, being a youngster, it helps going out and getting football - Oxford especially," he explained.

"As a 17-year-old getting a few bumps and bruises off the centre-halves made me more aware of the defenders and the physical nature of men's football so being out on loan was a great opportunity for me."

After his loan moves and few first-team chances at Ipswich, Huddersfield came calling for Rhodes and, after spending time in South Yorkshire, he knew what was on offer.

"I was aware of how Huddersfield were going about their work, I have always been aware of them as I lived in Barnsley, and I knew what they were about, but as soon as I had a word with the manager and chairman, they told me about their ambitions, their plans and they made me feel wanted and to get that chance was great," he said.

"It is a tremendous club with a really big fan-base, it is a Premier League standard club - the manager and chairman have got ambitions to get to the next level and you only have to look at League One, you have the Sheffield clubs, Charlton, and Norwich and Southampton were here not long ago - you do find big clubs at this level and it would be a dream come true for us to make it like they have.

"We have still got lots of hard work to do, I think it is a collective effort - the coaching staff, the chairman - we lost a couple of players in pre-season - Lee Peltier and Anthony Pilkington - but we brought in about seven or eight so it was almost like a new team, we had the disappointment of last year but we also had it the year before to a degree, but we have plenty of hard work to do."

Many people were shocked by Rhodes' promotion to the Scotland set-up but despite being Oldham-born he has roots firmly planted North of the border.

Scotland

Many people don't realise Rhodes spent the first 10 years of his life in Scotland, where his father Andy played for Dunfermline, St Johnstone and Airdrie.

"I have spent a lot of time in Scotland and my childhood was very much there so I feel committed and I cannot wait to try and get a result in Cyprus," he continued.

"Being called up doesn't happen every day, and not many players experience it at all so I am very honoured and proud that Scotland want me to be part of the squad."

Rhodes admits there was some stick going around from the squad at Huddersfield - currently flying high in League One - but admits there is already a Scottish flavour to the Galpharm.

"I got a bit of stick, but there is a bit of a Scottish contingent at Huddersfield anyway, we all watch the SPL and we follow it with interest - Scott Arfield came down a few seasons ago, Gary Naysmith is here and Tommy Miller, so the Scottish lads have taken an interest," he revealed.

Highly-regarded Scotland Under-21 coach Stark has even described Rhodes as the 'best striker' he has ever worked with, and it is that sort of faith the 21-year-old is looking to repay.

"I don't know if he is right in saying that - but it is a real honour to play under him for the Under-21s and we still have had a real epic campaign with them ," said Rhodes, who will continue to feature for the Under-21s, who are aiming to qualify for the finals of the European Championships.

"I had never been recognised by England at any level, so to be given the opportunity six or seven months away by Billy Stark to play in Belgium - it took me time to adapt and I am still learning now, it has all happened so quickly but I am really pleased and chuffed to be part of senior side.

"I cannot wait to play in Cyprus, to be involved in the squad, to be part of it with the household names, top footballers, and it will be a great learning curve for me to be part of that. And I am going away with the intention of learning as much as I can."

Rhodes admits the nerves have already started to kick-in, adding: "It is good to be a bit nervous, but it is a real honour and privilege, it is not something that happens every day so I will be going out with the intention of learning and hopefully something will rub off."

Rhodes admits his father Andy, now a coach at Sheffield Wednesday, has been the biggest influence on his career.

"I went to all the league games when I was younger, and even being younger I wanted to be on the football pitch - even if I never fancied being the goalkeeper," he said.

"But going to watch the games I always thought that is what I wanted and I always looked up to him as a youngster."