IN PRO­FILE

Black­pool boss Paul Ince has spent his life prov­ing a point

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Chris Dunlavy

FEW fig­ures in foot­ball in­spire vit­riol and mock­ery like Paul Ince. Never for­given for styling him­self ‘The Guv’nor’, the 45-year-old was branded a ‘Big Time Char­lie’ by Sir Alex Fer­gu­son and ac­cused of fak­ing in­jury by Ger­rard Houl­lier. Damned for his treach­ery by fans of West Ham, Ince has also been forced to swal­low ac­cu­sa­tions of ar­ro­gance and tac­ti­cal naivety in his man­age­ment ca­reer.

That Ince can be bel­liger­ent and ag­gres­sive is be­yond doubt. For many man­agers, his per­son­al­ity was just too strong.

“With Paul, you couldn’t have a hon­ey­moon all the time,” ad­mit­ted Fer­gu­son, who flogged Ince to In­ter in 1995 at the peak of his pow­ers.“He was such a volatile char­ac­ter, but at the same time he never let us down.”

Houl­lier re­sented Ince’s in­flu­ence in the Liver­pool dress­ing room, drum­ming him out in the be­lief that it would al­low young­sters like Steven Ger­rard and Michael Owen to blos­som.

Yet the very qual­i­ties that caused fric­tion with his em­ploy­ers were per­haps the rea­son Ince be­came one of Eng­land’s finest mid­field­ers. A cousin of Born: Il­ford, Redridge, 1967 (Age 45) Play­ing ca­reer: The snarling mid­fielder was at the top level for the ma­jor­ity of his il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer.

A boy­hood West Ham sup­porter, he made his de­but for the Ham­mers on 30 Novem­ber 1986, then moved to Manch­ester United in 1989 for £1m. Ince won ten tro­phies in his six-year stay and be­came a r egu­lar in the Eng­land side.

Moved to In­ter in 1995 un­der cur­rent Eng­land boss Roy Hodg­son and was highly suc­cess­ful, be­com­ing a cult hero and is still r evered at the San Siro.

He then moved to Liver­pool for £4m in 1997 and joined Mid­dles­brough in 1999, win­ning player of the year in his first sea­son.

Joined Wolves on a free trans­fer in boxer Nigel Benn, Ince grew up in a cramped Da­gen­ham coun­cil flat just out­side Lon­don, looked af­ter by an aunt af­ter his fa­ther and mother walked out.

By 13 he was in a gang and soon drink­ing Ten­nent’s Su­per and “go­ing down the Kings night­club for a fight”.

Scrap

His life was vi­o­lent and frac­tured, but he knew how to scrap – a qual­ity recog­nised by West Ham boss John Lyall.

Lyall signed Ince at 14 and helped him through his trou­bled teens, once spend­ing an hour with po­lice per­suad­ing them not to press charges af­ter Ince took part in a fight that left a man with bro­ken ribs.

It was to prove the turn­ing 2002 be­fore re­tir­ing in 2006. Man­age­rial ca­reer: Straight af­ter his stint at Mo­lineux, Ince be­came a player-coach along­side Dennis Wise at Swin­don. Af­ter a mu­tual ter­mi­na­tion, Ince be­came player-man­ager of Macclesfield and guided the Silk­men to Foot­ball League safety be­fore he be­gan his first stint as full MK Dons boss in 2007. Won pro­mo­tion from League Two and the Foot­ball League Tro­phy to earn a top-flight job at Black­burn. Af­ter win­ning just three games in 17, Ince was sacked on 16 De­cem­ber 2008.

An­other spell at MK Dons fol­lowed, be­fore leav­ing for Notts County. On April 3 2011 he left the club by mu­tual con­sent af­ter los­ing a club r ecord nine games in a row, be­fore join­ing Black­pool in Fe­bru­ary this year. point. Ince left the gangs be­hind and in 1989 he joined Manch­ester United for £1m, con­tro­ver­sially be­ing pho­tographed in a United shirt long be­fore the trans­fer was com­pleted.

There, he helped Fer­gu­son es­tab­lish his em­pire, win­ning two ti­tles, two FA cups and the Cup Win­ners’ Cup. He also won the first of 52 Eng­land caps, forg­ing a fine mid­field part­ner­ship with close friend Gazza, and be­came the first black Bri­ton to cap­tain his coun­try.

How­ever, it was at In­ter where he truly felt at home, mak­ing 54 ap­pear­ances in two years in Italy and be­com­ing a huge fans’ favourite.

“In­ter made me grow up, have re­spon­si­bil­i­ties,” he said. “I was still a bit of a boy at United. I proved to my­self, to United and to the English peo­ple that a player like me, not the most gifted tech­ni­cally, could go out to Italy and be a success through sheer hard work and de­ter­mi­na­tion.”

To this day, In­ter pres­i­dent Mas­simo Mo­ratti re­mains a friend, while Ince him­self dreams of one day coach­ing In­ter.

Spells

That, though, must wait. Hav­ing saved Macclesfield from rel­e­ga­tion in 2007 and then led MK Dons to pro­mo­tion from League Two, Ince was hailed one of Bri­tain’s bright­est young man­agers.

How­ever, a dis­as­trous 17game reign at Premier­ship Black­burn and thank­less spells back at MK Dons and Notts County mean Ince, now at Black- pool, must once again re­pair a bat­tered rep­u­ta­tion.

Yet those who know him best say he is more than ca­pa­ble – and far re­moved from the stereo­types that dog him.

“You are scared not to give 100 per cent un­der him,” said Jon Har­ley, who played for Ince at Notts County. “But he’s not a shouter and a screamer. He’s far more calm and col­lected.

“Peo­ple might be sur­prised by that. He won’t come in at half­time and start shout­ing and swear­ing. I’m not say­ing he can’t blis­ter the walls... he can. But most of the time what he has to say is very mea­sured, quiet and thought­ful.”

Carl Re­gan, part of Ince’s Macclesfield squad, says there is noth­ing big-time about his former man­ager.

“We all knew who he was when he came in at Macclesfield,” said Re­gan. “But we shouldn’t have been wor­ried be­cause he was un­be­liev­able. He came in and treated us like equals, like Pre­mier League play­ers al­most. It in­spired a lot of re­spect from all of the play­ers and we wanted to lay our lives on the line for him.”

And while he is hardly the most es­teemed of ref­er­ees, MK Dons chair­man Pete Win­kle­man has noth­ing but kind words for his friend.

“Paul is a leader, he is dy­namic, a fighter and a fan­tas­tic char­ac­ter,” he said. “I’ve got great mem­o­ries of him here and I’m de­lighted to see him back.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

ITAL­IAN JOB: Black­pool boss Paul Ince dreams of man­ag­ing In­ter Mi­lan one day. In­set: lift­ing the Pre­mier League tro­phy in 1994 at Manch­ester United

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