**This piece also appeared on the website for Shoot Magazine**
With not much for Liverpool fans to shout about this season, manager Brendan Rodgers really must be ruing his luck. In a campaign where the Reds’ are struggling for form, with a misfiring strikeforce, disorganised midfield and even worse defence, a spark is missing in the team that has not been addressed since the departure of Luis Suarez.
The extent of worry is so wide that Rodgers has resorted to attempts to bring back those players he decided to send out on loan this season. Speculation has, in particular, surrounded summer signing Divock Origi, with Rodgers reportedly keen to cut short his loan at Lille in January and bring him into the first team. While striker Origi has impressed in France and his introduction into the first team would very much be welcomed, Rodgers may want to look a little closer to home for the spark needed to ignite Liverpool’s season.
This spark could be in the shape of 18-year-old Jordon Ibe, on a season-long loan at Championship promotion contenders Derby, a young man with plenty of potential. The winger has not had much of an opportunity to establish himself in Rodgers’ first team plans since his move from Wycombe Wanderers in 2012 at the tender age of 16, so a customary drop down a division has provided a chance for Ibe to showcase his highly rated talents. He has not disappointed. The England youth international has electrified Pride Park with a number of stellar performances, scoring four goals in 16 appearances for the Rams and playing a key role in the side’s promotion push. Such a display will not have been ignored by Rodgers and his decision to send Ibe on loan seems a masterstroke.
Ibe has all the attributes of a star in the making. Technically, he is very much in the mould of Raheem Sterling – a young player with blistering pace and acceleration, uncanny strength, quick feet and an unpredictability on the ball that intimidates his markers. But much more than Sterling, Ibe is stronger, skilful and trickier on his feet which allows for a greater command of the left or right wing and a sublime ability to get past his defender. Ibe is more composed in the area when attempting a pass or scoring a goal, which a return of four goals for Steve McLaren’s side evidently shows.
The Bermondsey-born boy is comfortable either on the left or right wing, and has very much been given the freedom by McClaren to play his own game. So much so that the Derby boss has compared Ibe to the uncanny attackers of years gone by.
“He is, kind of, like the jinky wingers we used to get in the game,” said McClaren.
“We wanted to bring players here who can get the crowd on the edge of their seats when they pick the ball up. That is what Jordon has done. He has lit us up when he has played.”
But Derby’s manager has also commended Ibe for adding an aspect of teamwork to his arsenal, a key part in his on-going development.
“Jordon’s got a lot of quality. You can’t switch off when up against him. He is showing his defensive responsibilities, work rate and concentration.”
“He is not dribbling all the time and beating players, but playing off team-mates. I think he is becoming a team player, and that is vital.”
Such a glowing reference to Ibe’s abilities must be very encouraging for Brendan Rodgers, a manager more than aware of Ibe’s potential. Speaking during the pre-season, Rodgers said of the 18-year-old: “He’s got running power, pace, and he has a lovely touch on the ball.”
“For a kid of that age, his composure, his touch, his speed, he has all the attributes to be a real outstanding player.”
If Brendan Rodgers does take the step to recall players out on loan, one of his main targets should be Ibe. He very much represents Liverpool’s future and with his time at Derby proving fruitful, Rodgers should be relishing having him back in the first team. In a topsy-turvy season for the Reds, Ibe may be the spark needed to turn things around.