Norwich City report card: Here’s to you Jordan, the sort of loan everyone hopes for
The latest in our Norwich City EFL Championship report card series sees Michael Bailey give a thumbs up to the sort of loan signing that provides the best value – striker Jordan Rhodes.
It's a curious paradox that Jordan Rhodes' season-long loan move from Sheffield Wednesday didn't really have the impact it was supposed to.
A 29-year-old Championship goal machine. A man that had moved for huge fees. A striker Norwich City's new model couldn't hope to afford to purchase outright. And a deal that was a long way from being either cheap or simple.
That Norwich got the deal over the line was something of an achievement in itself; a mix of gamble and statement signing. If it came off, Norwich City had a proven and prolific striker on their hands at second-tier level.
If it didn't, they were relying on their back-up striker - a free agent from the Danish league. I fully appreciate that statement doesn't sound nearly as dramatic as it would have done at the end of July 2018.
Rhodes actually scored six Championship goals in 36 appearances, with a solitary assist in the mix. His three Carabao Cup goals came as a hat-trick at League One Wycombe Wanderers.
It means in terms of stark numbers, Rhodes didn't reach double-figures in a very decent side - and if you'd stated that would happen before a ball was kicked, it would have fallen short of people's expectations.
Even in terms of offering Rhodes a chance to reignite his career after a stalling few seasons, nine goals probably wouldn't have cut it in terms of progress.
When people sit down in the wider English football world and look at the numbers, that is what they will see.
Of course for those who have seen it first-hand, the story is significantly different and far more productive. Even romantic.
On the pitch, there were key moments - like his match-winning brace in the comeback win over Aston Villa at Carrow Road, plus roles in the dramatic wins over Millwall and Bolton, also at home. And how about the late January equaliser at West Bromwich Albion that may have done City so much good for the swiftly-following 2019 challenges to come.
In fact Rhodes' last league start came well before that, in the 1-0 home win over Brentford at the end of October.
Yet in many ways, Rhodes' big influence was not on the pitch.
It was how he carried himself around Colney and at Carrow Road. How he dealt with that surprise package from the Danish top-flight who emerged as one of the best pieces of Championship business ever done.
It was his interaction with Norwich City supporters - be it during his warm-up in front of the Snakepit or around the city.
And perhaps felt most keenly, it was a former Ipswich Town youth product helping the Canaries to their part in an extraordinary season for the two East Anglian rivals. He no doubt wanted more, but at the same time he will have more than enjoyed what he got.
Rhodes is one of the nicest guys I've ever had the pleasure of dealing with. Always happy to stop and have a chat. To properly engage with what he - or you - wanted to talk about.
When it was going well, you could see the enjoyment written on his face. And when it wasn't, you knew it hurt.
I caught Rhodes for about two minutes immediately following City's ridiculous 4-3 defeat at home to Derby - power cut and all.
I imagined him being philosophical over the bizarre circumstances of a rare loss - but I can tell you, all that was going through his mind was striking the bar with the final flurry of a mad game. For him, he cost his side at least a point - and that is the sort of personal investment you so rarely get with a loan player.
Will the journey continue? It's a tough question to answer.
The brutal stats probably say there will be better options elsewhere - yet Rhodes is someone who gets it here at Norwich City and with more time and involvement, may even improve those numbers.
Likewise, no footballer wants to be signed for sentimentality.
But in truth, what happens from here should be separate to celebrating Jordan Rhodes' 2018-19 at Carrow Road.
An example of the sort of loan every club hopes to get, when they make that first commitment.
Rhodes repaid it with everything he had - and the memories will keep for a lifetime.
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