‘I had to fetch his boots!’ Tommy Smith recalls the day Jordan Rhodes left Ipswich Town – and was banned from the training ground

Blackburn Rovers striker Jordan Rhodes

Blackburn Rovers striker Jordan Rhodes - Credit: Archant

Tomorrow night sees Jordan Rhodes return to Portman Road for the first time since being hauled off the Ipswich Town team coach and told not to return to the club’s training ground.

Those revelations come from Ipswich Town defender Tommy Smith, who remains close friends with the Blackburn Rovers striker.

Former Kesgrave High School pupil Rhodes, a prolific goal scorer at youth and reserve team level, was controversially sold by manager Roy Keane in 2009 after making just 10 substitute appearances for the first team.

He’s not looked back, earning an £8m move to Blackburn and a call-up to the Scotland squad thanks to a post-Ipswich goal record of 125 goals in 213 appearances.

“I was very surprised when he left,” said Smith, who describes Rhodes as his ‘best friend in football’.

“It was completely out of the blue. I don’t know what happened behind the scenes, but one day we were sat on the coach waiting to go to a pre-season game at Charlton, he was in the squad, got called off the coach, got back on and told us ‘I’m off’.

“It happened as quickly as that.

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“I ended up having to get his boots for him because he wasn’t allowed back at the training ground.

“We were roomies for away games, I only lived around the corner from him at Grange Farm and we used to hang out quite a bit together. At the time it was my best mate at the club leaving.

“I think you can say that leaving Ipswich has been the best thing for his career.

“It was disappointing to lose him here, but he’s gone on and done really well for himself and I’m delighted for him personally.”

Rhodes celebrated wildly when he scored the winner in Blackburn’s 1-0 win over Ipswich at Ewood Park back in February, admitting afterwards ‘I’ve waited four-and-a-half years to score against Ipswich’.

Smith said: “It will be nice to come up against him again. I broke his nose last season so I’m sure he’ll be trying to get some pay back for that!

“I’ll probably speak to him today when they are on their way down. I’ll see if I can eek out a bit of information about their team!

“We’re good mates, but as soon as the match starts you’re enemies. I don’t want to see him shouting and screaming against us again.”

- See tomorrow’s EADT and Ipswich Star for full match preview.