Electric Ibe easing his way into Anfield limelight
Liverpool have lately been obsessed by the setting son; Steven Gerrard's long goodbye, his ambition to retire with the FA Cup, is being woven deep into the fabric of their season.
And yet Gerrard's final Merseyside derby, a largely drab, goalless affair at Goodison Park, was remarkable for the sunrise of Jordon Ibe. The thunderous shot that clattered against the frame of the goal at the Gwladys End was one indication of the teenager's ability. His performance three days later in the frantic 3-2 win over Tottenham, which showed just why the Premier League might just be worth £5bn, was another.
The game, featuring fine performances from Emre Can and Lazar Markovic, was an answer to the question that had stalked their manager, Brendan Rodgers, a couple of months ago. Why had the Luis Suarez money been splurged on unreliable, young talent?
Ibe was then at Derby. There had been a queue of clubs asking for him on loan, but Steve McClaren's side had won the scramble. They got their hands on a young footballer of exceptional ability, Ibe got to play in front of large, passionate crowds in one of the Championship's best teams.
The Jordon Ibe whom McClaren sent back to Merseyside understands the value of the team more than the one who arrived. "When he first came, we gave Jordon one ball and the team the other," said McClaren. "Now, he has learnt how to be a team player."
But what Ibe has about him is electricity. "We wanted to get in a player who would get the crowd on the edge of their seats when they pick the ball up," said McClaren. "He is like the old, jinky wingers we used to get in the game."
Ibe is close to his team-mate Daniel Sturridge but the comparisons are likely to be with Raheem Sterling. Both grew up in London, Ibe in Bermondsey, brought up by Nigerian parents, Sterling in Wembley. Both have pace, technique and an ability to play in a variety of forward positions. One difference is that Ibe possesses a truly vicious shot.
What is remarkable is that Rodgers chose to throw him into two of the biggest games of Liverpool's season - the Merseyside derby and a punch-for-punch encounter with their rivals for a Champions League place. "It doesn't matter what the game is," Rodgers said. "If you believe in them enough, and they know the team is with them, it can really push them on."
That he made his debut for Wycombe as a 15-year-old suggests why Ibe might handle the big time better than some teenagers. His first booking was for running over to hug his mum after scoring against Sheffield Wednesday. He has been around a bit.
When he scored, the word "Dreams" was written across his chest. It was, admittedly, only because the bed showroom company was Wycombe's shirt sponsor but there was something prescient about it. (© Independent News Service)