JORDAN RHODES is firing on all cylinders!
That’s the reassuring message from manager Lee Clark as Town’s top scorer prepares to take on Swindon in League I today before joining up with Scotland Under 21s for their friendly in Belgium on Thursday.
Rhodes, whose 18th goal of the season sealed the 1-0 win at Bristol Rovers a week ago, has started only half of the eight games he’s been available for since returning after an ankle injury which kept him out for five.
But Clark, who has just agreed a contract extension with the player to keep him at Town until 2015, says that’s down to formation and tactics, not form or fitness.
“Jordan is feeling fine,” said the boss of the 21-year-old he brought in from Ipswich during the 2009 close-season.
“He did have a bout of illness, which is why he was brought off against Leyton Orient (three weeks ago), but it was out of his system within a few days.
“He has started each of the last three games, and the reason he was brought off at half-time at Brentford on Tuesday (when Town won 1-0 through Peter Clarke’s late winner) was purely tactical.
“We were concerned that their two centre-backs were winning most of the aerial battles, so we changed our shape, and with one central striker, you need to have someone with power and pace to get in behind.
“Benik Afobe gives you that, and Danny Cadamarteri gives you that, but what Jordan gives you is goals on a regular basis.
“That doesn’t mean he’s the finished article. He can still improve on his finishing and aspects of his general play. We want to help him do that and he wants to learn.
“That goes for all our strikers, because they all have strengths and weaknesses, and that’s why I want to have a mix at the club.
“Like I said, Benik and Danny have power and pace, while Alan Lee comes on and no-one knocks him around – he knocks them around! He also gets those little flicks for others to run on to.
“Then we have Lee Novak, whose energy and work ethic are as high as any member of the squad.
“All the strikers have been left out at various stages, and they’ve probably all been aggrieved at various times, but the motto here is we, not I.
“That’s the way the top clubs work and if we stick to that, we have a much better chance of getting where we want to.”
Rhodes, who qualifies for Scotland through his residency there as a child and is hoping for his Under 21 debut against Belgium, will be back for Town’s Sky Sports-televised home clash with Notts County a week tomorrow.
Scots coach Billy Stark is running a training camp before the match, and Clark added: “It will be good experience for Jordan, and we’re more than pleased he has been recognised.”
Rhodes missed the chance to face Northern Ireland in November in order to play in Town’s FA Cup first-round tie at Cambridge.
Town’s League I rivals Charlton have signed Millwall goalkeeper John Sullivan on a one-month loan.
The 23-year-old former Brighton player spent time on loan at Yeovil earlier this season, playing 17 times.
His arrival at The Valley comes after Neil Etheridge was recalled from his loan spell by parent club Fulham.
Sullivan could face Dagenham and Redbridge today as Rob Elliot recovers from a hip injury.