x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Rovers and out as Ince gets the cut

Paul Ince has been sacked by Blackburn Rovers following the club's disappointing start to the Premier League season.

Paul Ince arrived at Ewood Park with a growing reputation after working wonders at Macclesfield and MK Dons in the English lower leagues. He left with his tail between his legs after getting the sack.
Paul Ince arrived at Ewood Park with a growing reputation after working wonders at Macclesfield and MK Dons in the English lower leagues. He left with his tail between his legs after getting the sack.

BLACKBURN // Neither the inclement Lancashire weather nor the insulting chants from all four sides of the JJB Stadium interrupted his lonely vigil. Paul Ince failed as Blackburn manager but, as in his playing days, he did not hide. The 3-0 defeat to Wigan on Saturday effectively ended his reign at Ewood Park, though the official confirmation came on Tuesday.

His was a death warrant signed by players and supporters alike. While the Rovers team belied talk of an excellent team spirit by capitulating, their fans joined in the taunts of the Wigan faithful and then instigated their own. Their target was easily identifiable. Ince, impassive and impotent on the edge of his technical area, his hands buried in his pockets, looked a manager unable to influence proceedings. His final act was one of defiance. While Blackburn's fans called for Benni McCarthy, Ince introduced one of his favourites, the young Irishman Keith Treacy, instead. It was a move that was symbolic of Ince's reign; McCarthy was marginalised while his signings - especially those of his former Liverpool teammate Robbie Fowler and his MK Dons captain Keith Andrews - brought suggestions of cronyism.

Discontent spilled over into dissent 10 days earlier in the Carling Cup defeat at Old Trafford when criticism was aired publicly. Poor form, culminating in 11 Premier League matches without a victory, had a fatal impact. Unable to win popularity contests, Ince required triumphs on the pitch. In personnel if not pounds, however, Ince's inheritance was enviable. A squad that secured three successive top-10 finishes was largely intact. McCarthy, Morten Gamst Pedersen and Roque Santa Cruz represented proven match-winners who failed to repeat their earlier form under Ince; Ryan Nelsen, Christopher Samba and Stephen Warnock had formed three-quarters of a dependable defence which was transformed into the leakiest in the league.

Chairman John Williams' statement served as an indictment of Ince. "Three wins in 17 games has seen a squad which finished seventh last season fall to 19th place," he said. "We are currently in danger of becoming detached from the pack." They are already five points adrift of the comparative safety of 17th place. Rovers' record prompted one of Ince's less credible comments, suggesting the pressure was telling, when he asked journalists why they were not questioning the [palpably superior] performance of Harry Redknapp and Joe Kinnear at Tottenham and Newcastle respectively.

Similarly, Mark Hughes, a far more successful Rovers manager and one with a shared past at Old Trafford, was able to refute his theory that there is an anti-Manchester United vendetta. Blame was liberally sprinkled around, but in their analysis of Ince's brief and inglorious taste of top-flight management, his own fans were in no doubt he merited the majority of it. rjolly@thenational.ae