Liverpool youngster Jordon Ibe is set to sign a new five-year contract with the Reds following his quick rise to prominence in the past few weeks, but just who is the winger? Mark Jones gives you the lowdown:
As he darted past one startled defender after another it was easy to forget that Liverpool’s 3-2 win over Tottenham last week was only Jordon Ibe’s second league start at Anfield, and a seventh appearance for the club overall.
The others included one on the final day of the 2012/13 campaign when all eyes were on Jamie Carragher as he took his 737th and final bow in red, and a 14-minute cameo in place of Steven Gerrard in the 5-1 hammering of Arsenal last season. It’s too early to put the 19-year-old anywhere near the bracket of such club legends, but he’s made an exciting start.
And excitement is the key word when it comes to Ibe, who was getting the Anfield crowd off their feet as he raided forward from right wing-back, dovetailing with Lazar Markovic and giving Danny Rose the toughest test he’s likely to have all season.
But don’t take that as evidence that he doesn’t know how to contribute defensively, too.
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A real success story of the loan system, temporary spells at Birmingham City and more specifically Derby County under the stewardship of Steve McClaren have sharpened up Ibe’s game, so much so that he’s now comfortable dropping back to cover whenever he’s needed.
Before Gerrard was withdrawn, the right side of Liverpool’s team against Tottenham was exceptionally young. There was the 21-year-old Emre Can, Ibe – pronounced to rhyme with ‘Vibe’, although everyone gets it wrong – and 20-year-old goalscorer Markovic. But was there any naivety? Not at all.
Can and Markovic have arrived from big European clubs for the combined cost of almost £30m, and along with those price tags they have also built up experience on the continent, but Ibe’s story is a more traditional one.
A South London boy, he ended up signing for Wycombe Wanderers aged 12 after Charlton Athletic decided to release him.
After a few years in the youth squads, word soon got around Adams Park than the then League One club had a really special talent on their hands, and after much clamour for his inclusion Ibe made his senior debut as a 15-year-old when he came on in extra-time in a League Cup win over Colchester in August 2011.
A first league appearance followed two months later, and then two weeks after that – still aged 15 – he scored his first senior goal in a match against Sheffield Wednesday, before running into the crowd to celebrate with his jubilant parents and ultimately getting booked by a killjoy referee.
The word was out about him now, and shortly after he turned 16 he was snapped up by Liverpool for an undisclosed fee and placed straight into the club’s development squads.
But whilst the developing Ibe story does have a lot to do with the training pitches at Liverpool’s Academy in Kirkby and then the pristine surfaces at the first-team’s Melwood base, it is his Football League experience which has really got him to where he is today.
A loan spell at Birmingham for the final three months of the last Championship season got him used to playing in pressurised circumstances, and he was involved in the move which led to the dramatic stoppage-time equaliser from Paul Caddis which kept Blues up and relegated Doncaster Rovers on the final day of the season.
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If that move taught Ibe about pressure, then this season’s loan switch to Derby gave him everything he needed to know about what it takes to succeed, playing in arguably the best footballing side in a notoriously tough division and under an experienced manager willing to give him responsibility.
Ibe wasn’t a regular starter for the Rams, but he was a regular contributor, so much so that the club’s fans were left hugely disappointed when Liverpool recalled him prior to their meeting with bitter rivals Nottingham Forest last month.
At Derby he learned to press, he learned defensive responsibility and he learned just what a dangerous weapon he is with the ball at his feet. Liverpool would have always known he had those raw materials, and now they appear to be ready to make the most of them.
A man-of-the-match display in a Merseyside derby and a lively presence on the wing in a win over Tottenham doesn’t call for getting carried away just yet, but given the hard work he’s put in to getting here then don’t be surprised if Ibe’s is name you are hearing more and more of in the years to come.
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