Where do we start with Jabo Ibehre? Signed in 2017 after two years at Carlisle where he earned cult status, Jabo had also enjoyed the adulation of fans at his first club Leyton Orient. Initially joining on a one-year deal, this was quickly extended to a following year.
It’s hard to judge any striker without taking into account their goalscoring, and Jabo’s record wasn’t great for the U’s, scoring just eleven league goals in almost seventy appearances. They don’t always tell the full story though, and it was with his ability to hold the ball up and bring in other players where Jabo shone. Sadly, when a player arrives with a reputation for goals (although his career stats will peg him as a 1-in-5 striker, despite a decent enough record at Carlisle) but doesn’t score consistently then fans will begin to question his quality, even if his job for the team goes unrecognised.
One area you can’t fault Jabo is his commitment – despite his advanced years he worked hard for the team, and wanted us to do well. Some of his best football for United was alongside Uche Ikpeazu, who paid tribute to him on Twitter today, saying he had “learned a lot” from Ibehre. Further tributes come from U’s players past and present, showing that he was a popular character in the dressing room.
It’s worth noting that the injury that eventually ended his career was sustained challenging the goalkeeper in a reserve game against P*sh. Jabo committed to the cause even in when playing for the reserves, at a time when many U’s fans were questioning his dedication to the team.
That remains the Ibehre conundrum, a hard-working player, popular with his peers, who never quite got the adulation from fans he earned elsewhere. Yes, he was past his prime when he joined us, and maybe it would have been better if he’d have only spent a season or two here instead of three, but he was always judged on a metric that was never really part of his game.
Good luck in your retirement, Jabo.