Sometimes things just don’t work out.
It isn’t necessarily anybody’s fault, all parties concerned try their damndest but essentially the result isn’t what they intended. When Jordan Ibe returned from a loan spell at Derby in January 2015, he was fearless. Youthful exuberance and power, combined with pace and a willingness to run at people. By comparison to a disillusioned Raheem Sterling, the lad looked new and shiny. A ready replacement in many eyes.
When Sterling’s move to Manchester City became a reality, many people lumbered the weight of last season onto Jordan Ibe’s shoulders before a ball had even been kicked. The lad is good, but as the season started he was still a teenager with consistency issues. His loan spell at Birmingham had been quite patchy by all accounts, though Derby had proven a more successful hunting ground for him. Though an injury had resulted in him missing a few games and coming back to the bench for a team at the start of their best run that season. He was brought back to bolster a floundering attack that January, Brendan Rodgers looking for goal scoring solutions and cover in the final third.
I seem to remember that he shone in patches at first, a reasonable enough return from a 19 year old who’d been warming a bench in the Championship not long previous. As he grew accustomed to his teammates though, he seemed to be one of the better outlets as the season came to a close.
Back to the start of 2015/16, the room left by Sterling demanded a hero to plug the gap. Eyes moved to Ibe. Rodgers wasted no time in declaring him a potentially better player than his departed teammate. To be fair to Rodgers, in later quotes the word “potential” would be removed as that phrase became a stick to beat both the player and the manager. That word shouldn’t be overlooked with Ibe, since being bought from Wycombe in 2011 that word has constantly been mentioned in the same sentence as Ibe’s name. Rightly so too. His size, speed and skill give him the foundation to be one hell of a player and we’ve seen it in glimpses. I was looking down the touchline on the last day of last season when he set off on the run for Liverpool’s goal that day. The highlight of an awful day on the M6, and I thank him for it wholeheartedly for making the trip worthwhile. By then though, my mind was made up. He needed to be somewhere else. It wasn’t working out.
Jordan Ibe’s problem is not one of skill or physical ability, it is a mental issue. His decision making has wandered into the over thinking category, often making no decision at all for fear of making the wrong one. A hangover from Brendan’s heaping of expectation on him perhaps, or maybe just over coaching. Whatever the reason, in the first two home games of last season Rodgers was visibly and audibly trying to coach Ibe through the games. He swapped wings at half time to keep him close to the dugouts! That’s what a young lad with the weight of the world needs, ninety minutes in front of the Paddock when he’s having a shit show. God love you Brendan but you made some strange decisions. The point though is that even there, touch tight to his own manager, he was visibly hiding from the ball. When the centre halves were coming out and looking for him to run, he hid behind his opposite number on many occasions or came short when they wanted him to go long. The ball constantly going back to his full-back or nipping off his foot on halfway. The lad looked done in. He looked like someone in need of being taken out of the firing line, or in need of some help. I wasn’t mad at him, I felt sorry for him.
As Rodgers left and Klopp came in, Ibe was injured if memory serves and he didn’t play for the first few games. Though he returned to score the only goal away at Rubin Kazan and Jurgen beaming “IBEEEEEEEE!” at the end of the game gave us the idea that Jurgen may fancy making the youngster one of the projects by which his career had been defined at Dortmund.
As the season went on, the manager fell out of love with the player. Slight injuries hampering Ibe’s progress and his lack of consistency when fit seemed to grate on the patience of the manager. The player reacted with the petulance of youth, deleting all reference to Liverpool from his social media. All the while both parties denied a rift there were rumours of Ibe being disciplined surfaced and festered. It wasn’t working out.
That final flourish at the Hawthorns once more highlighted the potential of the man. He’d been used sporadically since the league cup semi-final, but still he had great potential.
The move to Bournemouth looks to be the right thing for all concerned. £15 million for someone who figured only a dozen times in the league last year, with two league goals to his name. Seems like very good business on behalf of the club, but there is still belief in that potential. The deal apparently contains buy back and sell on clauses, so we’ve first dibs or some more money depending on how much of that potential is being reached.
I expect that Jordan Ibe will flourish on the South Coast, there is less expectation there, more patience, he will be loved. I truly hope that he reaches the level that seems possible, and befits his talent. Even if he does there’s no guarantee that any return would improve his fortunes here, but it’s nice to have the option. All the best Jordan lad, no hard feelings or teary goodbyes. Best wishes all round and no looking back from either party. We’ll not to get too jealous if we see you having a whale of a time with your new team, just try not to rub our noses in it when we find ourselves in the same places eh?
Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.
Written by Lee Andrews (@BigLee01)