THE new League 1 season hasn’t even kicked off yet, but already Jabo Ibehre has set his sights on automatic promotion.
The forward – fresh from signing a two-year contract extention with Dons – is determined to hit the ground running when the club’s players return to training this weekend.
It will be the first time the whole squad, with just a handful of changes so far, has been back together since the disappointment of play-off semi final defeat at Peterborough. But Ibehre says he’s confident Dons will learn lessons from last season and posh for automatic promotion in 2011/12.
“I think it will give us a fire in our bellies because we came so close,” he said. “We enjoyed the taste that came with being in the play-offs and the expectations of everyone.
“After coming that close, we’ll go into the new season knowing what to do to push on from what we achieved last year. I think it’ll put us in good stead.
“You have to take the positives out of it. In the last six months of the season we played some really great football. We’re only going to improve on that and we’ll use last season as a stepping stone – a marker to improve on next season.
“The form we hit towards the end of the year was great to be part of. The hunger and belief is now there in everyone that we can do something great here, and we want to hit the ground running.”
News of the 28-year-old’s contract extension was somewhat overshadowed by the news that Peterborough had made two further bids for his team-mates Sam Baldock and Stephen Gleeson.
But Ibehre feels Dons’ decision to keep hold of the pair will only fuel the squad’s desire to win promotion themselves and join rivals Posh in the Championship.
“It’s massive (turning down the bids). They both had exceptional seasons along with a few of the others in our side. If we want to go places and get to the next level, we need to hold on to our best players and hope to smash this league this season coming.”
The signing of Dean Bowditch has added to the level of competition for places up front now, but Ibehre says he’s encouraged by the signing, and not worried about what it will mean for his role in the side. And he wants to see more players joining Dons’ ranks before the season kicks off in August.
“It’d be fantastic to see some new faces again,” said Ibehre, who joined Dons on a free transfer from Walsall in the summer of 2009. “If we can bring in some players of a good quality it’ll only enhance the side.
“We all have the same objective – to do well and to get the side promoted, and by doing it in style.
“We have a good group here, and the way we play football is great. So I want to be part of it and play more and more frequently.”
Despite his efforts, the striker only came away with three league goals to his name last campaign, but is desperate to add more to his total next time around, working closely with assistant manager John Gorman to help him do so.
“I definitely want to score more goals,” he said. “I’ve worked hard with John on a few things so hopefully I’ll get a lot more come next season.”