Do you remember Paul Ince wearing a Manchester United shirt, while still a West Ham United player?
The great John Lyall had spotted Ince when he was just 12 but lost his job as a result of his team’s relegation in 1989 (along with Middlesbrough and Newcastle United – who says things were so very different in that long pre-Premier League history?)
Ince did not seem to crave a move away because of any lingering respect for his manager and mentor; more to satisfy an ego that was already out of control and a bank balance he thought would better match his misguided perception of sartorial elegance.
He was desperate to sign for Alex Ferguson’s side and won honours at Old Trafford – who didn’t at that time? – before even Ferguson got fed up with him, labelling him a ‘big-time Charlie’ and other Glaswegian epithets suggesting that the sum of Ince’s parts was infinitely less than one decent player.
Despite flouncing off to play for Inter Milan, Liverpool and, well, Middlesbrough, Ince never won anything again. He did win promotion with Wolves but that was just as quickly followed by relegation as inches on the pitch proved far less effective than column inches in the press.
There then followed an unexciting managerial career with the only highlights being a Football Trophy win and promotion with the mighty MK Dons. He is particularly remembered for being the fourth-shortest serving manager in Blackpool’s history – which really does take some doing – winning just 12 of 42 matches.
Although Paul was over-rated as a football player and un-rated as a manager, he continues to talk as though he was one of the greats of his era. Sadly, his ‘punditry’ ranges from comments that could be construed as sexist or homophobic to analysis that, frankly, makes those little white lists of instructions – written in tiny writing – contained within every Nurofen packet suddenly compelling reading.
You would hope then, wouldn’t you, that the son of the father would be very different? Well, Tom Ince followed in his father’s footsteps of failure at Anfield and Blackpool (who, it should be noted, had already been relegated before Ince junior arrived). True, he won the 2013 Football League Young Player of the Year Award and showed more potential than his father for scoring and assisting (goals not ego massages).
It then all went a bit strange as he failed to make the Premier League grade with Crystal Palace and couldn’t even get into Hull City’s top-flight side on a regular basis. Eventually, he was loaned out to Nottingham Forest and then Derby, for whom he signed. Hardly the upward trajectory of a star player but not dissimilar to Dad’s downward spiral – just without the soundbites.
If Paul Ince was misguided in his belief in his own ability, son Paul just seems to be miserable – most of the time. When things didn’t go his way at Derby, he seemed to sulk and just fade out of games. Maximum effort certainly seemed to give way to minimum involvement, apart from arguing with opponents and officials over just about every decision they made. Behind all of this angst, you suspected that he was simply afraid of the answer to the question, first posed on his Christening Cup: ‘Do you not know who I am?’
Well, Gary Rowett – shamefully sacked by Birmingham City when on the verge of the play-offs – and now Derby County manager deserves, in my view, far better than the likes of Tom Ince. The ‘Derby way’ of management is a bit of an unknown, though, and selling the hugely talented Will Hughes to Watford won’t have helped his cause this season – but perhaps it was the right time for both club and player?
Letting David Wagner buy Tom Ince for Huddersfield Town feels very different and certainly, you would expect the Derby dressing room to feel a lot lighter as a result. Wagner has also signed strikers Steve Mounie from Montpelier and Laurent Depoitre from Porto, as well as Aaron Mooy from Pep Guardiola (who had previously thought he was some kind of cattle mascot).
If Wagner can persuade Huddersfield fans that beer money can buy champagne football, then fine. For Tom Ince, however, the harsh and relentless training routines of a Pennines-based football machine seem about as likely to reverse his decline as his father choosing to modestly re-write football history by admitting that the Ince family flattered to deceive: big time.