Kezie Ibe believes Hendon stars would cut it playing at a higher level
PUBLISHED: 09:00 22 January 2015
Kezie Ibe believes several of his team-mates are good enough to play in a higher league – whether they gain promotion with Hendon or not.
The experienced Ibe, who played for Yeovil in the Football League and has spent most of his career at Conference level, is enjoying a renaissance with the Dons this season.
His strike partnership with Leon Smith has realised a total of 34 goals in all competitions so far this season, helping Hendon into the thick of the play-off scramble.
And the 32-year-old feels Smith, along with defensive trio Ollie Sprague, Charlie Goode and Elliot Brathwaite, and young winger Roman Michael-Percil, are all capable of stepping up at least one division.
“Leon’s not that much younger than me but he’s so willing to learn,” Ibe told the Times.
“Any information you give him, he takes it on. He’s a good player and what he brings to the team is so valuable.
“If he’d been at a decent level when he was younger, I’m quite sure he would have played in the Football League. But he’s scoring goals and it’s never too late.
“I’ve played in the past with people that haven’t got half as much as Leon has, but played at a higher level. I feel like he’s probably got a chance of playing a lot higher.
“To be honest, there are a lot of players like that in our squad – Ollie, Roman, Charlie and Ells and they’re all still young so they’ve got a chance.
“First and foremost we want to progress and do as well in the league as we can. On the whole we’re pleased with what we’ve done but there’s a lot more to come.”
Ibe, who started out on Arsenal’s books and then moved to Bournemouth, played alongside Dons boss Gary McCann at Aylesbury United prior to his stint with Yeovil.
Since then, the striker’s travels have taken in several non-league clubs around the south-east including Chelmsford City, Ebbsfleet United, Farnborough, Sutton United and Eastbourne Borough.
But Ibe, who has netted 13 times since he joined Hendon last summer, maintains that the atmosphere in the Greens’ dressing-room is superior to anything he has experienced anywhere else.
“I’ve known Gary a long time and the club’s fairly local for me, so I came down,” he said.
“It wasn’t my first option, if I’m honest – I had a few others – but I enjoyed it so much and I’ve enjoyed it ever since.
“I think that’s the most important thing, if you’re enjoying your football, it’s going to bring the best out of you.
“At all the clubs I’ve played for, I’ve never experienced a team with such bonding and togetherness.
“That brings the best out of me and the rest of the team – we don’t want to let each other down, we don’t want to let the gaffer down and we don’t want to let the fans down.
“We’re all together, all on the same page and I think that’s why we’ve done so well. At the start of the season we probably wouldn’t have been tipped to be around Maidstone and Margate.
“Mathematically we still are, so we’ve done well.
“I believe that, at our best, we are good enough to match the teams with big budgets, and it’s down to us.”
Hendon had been hoping to make amends for their recent setback, when they lost at Enfield Town, but Saturday’s home match against Canvey Island was called off due to a frozen pitch.
Instead, the Dons played a hastily-arranged friendly against Edgware Town on the artificial surface at Silver Jubilee Park, with Ibe one of seven scorers in his side’s 8-1 victory.
Aaron Morgan netted twice, with Chris Seeby, Tony Taggart, Smith, Michael-Percil and Andre Da Costa also on target in a match played over three 35-minute periods.
“It was important that we didn’t just come in and do pointless running – match fitness is different to fitness in general,” added Ibe, who played two-thirds of the game.
“I think the majority of the squad would rather play a game than just train – it’s more realistic and you get more out of it.
“When you lose a game you just want to get to the next one and put things right.
“There were a few performances, including mine, that didn’t live up to how well we’ve done in the past, so it’s important to get back to winning ways as soon as we can.”