IF Kevin Gallacher had his way then Jordan Rhodes and David Goodwillie would be leading the attack for both Blackburn Rovers and Scotland for the best part of the next decade.
Not for the first time, however, the pair find themselves at something of a career crossroads. Rhodes turns 24 next month, no longer the youthful prospect that so excited the Tartan Army upon his international breakthrough more than two years ago. He is yet to play in England's top division - joining Blackburn in August 2012 after their relegation to the Championship - but there is a growing list of clubs who would like to make that happen this month. West Bromwich Albion reportedly lead the chase but there will be others not far behind them.
Much of the transfer activity done in January centres on clubs seeking a quick fix and many will look at the 16 goals Rhodes has plundered for Blackburn this season and wonder whether he could do the same for them. Given nobody else in the squad has managed more than two in the same period it is fair to say the adopted Scot's productivity is the main reason Rovers sit four points outside the play-off places with a more than reasonable chance of gaining promotion.
Loading article content
With that in mind, there is little chance of anyone getting Rhodes on the cheap. Blackburn paid £8m to sign the striker from Huddersfield Town 18 months ago and that will be the starting price for any offers.
Given Rhodes' goal return since then - he scored 27 last season - and the fact he has more than three years left on his contract, anyone who fancies adding him to their squad for the second half of the campaign will need to start the bidding at £10m. Gallacher, a former Blackburn player who covers their matches for Radio Lancashire, hopes Rhodes will stay to help finish the job of returning the club to the Barclays Premier League, but he knows finance will ulitmately dictate what happens next.
"You're hoping that Jordan stays at Blackburn but, obviously, teams have been looking at him," the 53-time capped Scotland international said. "At this stage of the season, people tend to look for a goalscorer and he's being watched regularly by a number of scouts at Ewood Park. It's just a question now about whether Rovers can hold on to him. Personally, I don't think they are in a position to turn down good offers. If someone came in with the right money I think they would let Jordan go. Other clubs balked at paying the £8m that Blackburn did to sign him from Huddersfield but he almost single-handedly kept them in the Championship last season. Blackburn will want that money back plus a few extra million on top."
A prolific streak came late to Rhodes whose early stints with Ipswich Town, Oxford United, Rochdale and Brentford failed to deliver a glut of goals. Now proven as an established and reliable scorer, Gallacher believes only a lack of electric pace may stop the player from ascending to the highest level.
"He's still learning and if he moves to the Premier League he'll improve by training and playing with better players," he added. "He's of an age where there is still more to come from him. Jordan's a goalscorer but so is Kris Boyd and it never really worked out for him down here. When you're lacking that little bit of pace then it's harder to get to the very top. But he's working on it. He's not a slouch but he's been working on certain aspects of his game to try to better himself. The next question is whether he can be a Premier League player. We won't know until it happens."
Should Rhodes leave then it would seem, in theory, to open the door for Goodwillie. Gallacher, though, doesn't expect that to be the case. The 24-year-old has returned to Ewood Park following the completion of an unsuccessful loan spell at first club Dundee United and was an unused substitute against Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
Unlike Rhodes, Goodwillie has struggled to make an impact since joining Rovers for £2m back in 2011, a number of problems in his personal life contributing to an unsettled few years. Aberdeen, St Johnstone and Oldham Athetic have all made noises about taking Goodwillie on loan this month, with Tommy Wright, the St Johnstone manager, talking positively last week about bringing the player to McDiarmid Park. Gallacher would prefer him to stay at Blackburn to try to force his way into manager Gary Bowyer's plans but fears he has slipped down the pecking order.
"Blackburn have gone out and signed the boy Rudy Gestede so it looks like he'll be the one most likely to get a chance should Jordan leave," said Gallacher. "DJ Campbell started last week against Manchester City although he's now away to Millwall on loan, and there's also Leon Best there, too. If David stays and shows what he can do in the reserves then maybe he'll get a crack but it's not looking like it at the moment. I've always felt that he's never had a fair chance at Blackburn and that's pretty disappointing."