JORDAN RHODES rejoined Huddersfield last summer to recreate happy memories — but never thought he could help fire them into the Premier League.
The striker is in his second spell with the Terriers having scored 87 goals from 129 starts during his previous stint — which saw him win promotion from League One.
And after scoring a spectacular winner against Luton to set up tomorrow’s £200million winner-takes-all final with Nottingham Forest, he told SunSport: “Getting into the Premier League with Huddersfield would be a fairytale.”
The Scot returned after being released by Sheffield Wednesday following their relegation from the Championship.
Asked if he thought then the team were realistically going to mount a promotion challenge, Rhodes said: “No one set going up as a target but it was something that became more probable.
“We’ve ended third in the league and are now in the play-off final.”
Rhodes, 32, was already a Terriers legend for his previous exploits. They included scoring an eight-minute hat-trick of headers against Exeter in 2010 — beating Dixie Dean’s record at Everton from the 1930s.
He became the first Huddersfield player to net back-to-back hat-tricks since the 1920s in 2011. The striker was top scorer three seasons in a row and won League One player of the season in 2012.
And he said: “I returned because of the great memories — being able to walk out on a pitch where I’ve scored goals, played well and had seasons where we’d been successful as a club.
“It was a desire to want to replicate the good old days — and it’s great being back.
“It’ll be fantastic for the whole club and town to get that win on Sunday.”
Rhodes suffered a fractured back after two league games and sat out four months.
And he admitted: “I overdid it in the summer — trained hard to come back in the best physical shape but I had this niggling injury in pre-season and couldn’t shake it off.
“I had it scanned, got the bad news and had a few months doing nothing because there’s not much you can do with a fractured back.
“But the body is now feeling better — nice and fresh — because I had that good rest.”
Rhodes has played a supporting role since returning — making 17 substitute appearances in the league and six starts.
But he is in form with three goals in his last five games.
He said: “I always strive to do my best — whether that be helping people out day to day, encouraging them, being enthusiastic.
“If there’s a role to start then great but if it’s coming off the bench to impact the game, whether it be to see out a match, score or create a chance, I’m happy to do that, too.
“Everything I do is geared to hopefully getting Huddersfield promotion.”
Rhodes has certainly made an impact. In the 793 Championship minutes he has played, the team have scored 17 goals and conceded only six — and in all the time he has spent on the pitch since January the team have let in just one.
He laughed: “That makes me sound like a good defensive striker. But the one thing I’ve got better at and developed is being a nuisance — throwing myself around and being annoying for the defenders.
“As I’ve gotten older, every ball matters when it’s up there. Even when it’s not in my favour, I can tip it our way.
“If I can’t win the ball, hopefully it drops to someone else in the team.”
Huddersfield also have players with Wembley experience.
Rhodes, himself, played in the League One final against Sheffield United when Huddersfield won promotion ten years ago — and admits it will help ahead of this weekend’s clash.
He said: “We were going through the team the other day.
“Jonathan Hogg got promoted with Huddersfield to the Premier League in the play-offs five years ago.
“Fraizer Campbell went up with Hull. Duane Holmes was injured but was involved with Derby.
“Tom Lees has been there with Sheffield Wednesday. Hopefully that’ll take away any nerves or apprehension.”
Boss Carlos Corberan has done a fantastic job this season after a difficult first year.
Rhodes admitted: “He doesn’t get close to us on a human level but definitely does on a professional one.
“There are meetings every day before and after training. We have one-to-one time, too.
“It’s always made clear exactly what the manager wants. There’s never a day we don’t interact with him.”
But how does he cope as an older player with Corberan’s gruelling training sessions?
The Terriers ace said: “It helps us older ones more because we’re keeping our bodies moving and high speeds up.
“Every individual has his own target to hit. I’ve never had that scenario but it keeps me in the best physical shape I’ve ever been.”
After beating Luton in the semi-finals, Huddersfield flew to Portugal for warm-weather training in the Algarve — and the players took their families.
Rhodes said: “It was fantastic to see the lads with their wives, girlfriends and families and seeing the dynamics of that, such as each other’s children playing together.
“I don’t think too many people spoke about the play-off final.”
They are all focused on it now, though.
And Rhodes said: “Hopefully we can put in a performance that makes everyone from Huddersfield proud — and have even more reason to celebrate next week’s wonderful bank holiday weekend.”