CHRIS DUNLAVY

Our re­porter on why Jor­dan Rhodes holds the key for Boro and Black­burn

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - Chris Dunlavy

BLACK­BURN must hang on to Jor­dan Rhodes. And Mid­dles­brough must prise him from their grasp. The bat­tle for the Cham­pi­onship’s most nat­u­ral goalscorer is the sum­mer’s titanic trans­fer tus­sle – and for the loser, the con­se­quences could be dire.

Boro were about as men­ac­ing as a sleepy Bud­dhist last sea­son, even with 19-goal player of the year Pa­trick Bam­ford lead­ing the line.

With just 68 goals in 46 games – 30 fewer than cham­pi­ons Bournemouth – no­body in the top eight was more tooth­less than the Teessiders. Ul­ti­mately, it cost them a place in the Premier League.

Now Bam­ford is gone. So too has Lee Tom­lin. And while re­turn­ing hero Stewart Down­ing can pro­vide plenty of ser­vice, who ex­actly is he go­ing to serve?

At the time of writ­ing, the only for­wards on Boro’s books were the Spa­niard Kike and Uruguayan Chris­tian Stu­ani. One is a tar­get man, the other untested in the Cham­pi­onship.

Guar­an­tee

Will that part­ner­ship strike fear into Cham­pi­onship de­fences? Hardly. On pa­per, they are about as scary as Tig­ger and Eey­ore.

So no won­der Boro chair­man Steve Gib­son is throw­ing his mighty fi­nan­cial weight be­hind a bid for Rhodes.

The Scot­tish in­terna- tional is a cast iron guar­an­tee of goals. Since join­ing Hud­der­s­field as a teenager in 2009, the 25-yearold has hit 20-plus ev­ery sin­gle sea­son. His strike-rate – and this is over 325 ap­pear­ances – is one ev­ery 1.8 games. No­body, at any level, has been more con­sis­tent over the last six years.

Black­burn know that bet­ter than any­one. It’s why they paid Hud­der­s­field a Cham­pi­onship record £8m for him in Au­gust 2012.

And it’s also why own­ers the Venky fam­ily have so far re­jected bids of £12m and £14m from Boro. With Rhodes keen to leave, can they re­sist a third? For boss Gary Bowyer and fans of Black­burn, it is im­per­a­tive.

Bowyer has done won­ders at Ewood Park but any work­man is only as good as his tools. And af­ter last sea­son’s 22-goal top­scorer Rudy Gest­ede was flogged to Villa for £6m, his box is al­ready pretty bare.

Rhodes and Gest­ede ac­counted for two thirds of Black­burn’s goals last sea­son. Sure, they could buy some­one else. With £20m, Bowyer could treat him­self to a whole new team.

Qual­ity

But the chances of find­ing one striker, let alone two, of the same qual­ity at such short no­tice is vir­tu­ally nil. And with all that cash very pub­licly burn­ing a hole in their pock­ets, will those play­ers come for the right rea­sons? No­body wants to be the next QPR.

For Black­burn, los­ing Rhodes now would al­most cer­tainly in­vite a rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle. For Boro, his sign­ing would make them favourites for pro­mo­tion. For both, the price of fail­ure could be a hell of a lot more than £14m.

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