Full name: Paul Emerson Carlyle Ince
Date of birth: 21 October 1967 in llford, Essex, England
Nickname: The Guv’nor
Clubs as a player: 1982-1989: West Ham United. 1989-1995: Manchester United. 1995-1997: Inter Milan. 1997-1999: Liverpool. 1999-2002: Middlesbrough. 2002-2006: Wolverhampton Wanderers. 2006: SwindonTown. 2007: Macclesfield Town.
Honours as a player: English Premier League 1993, 1994 FA Cup 1990, 1994. Charity Shield1990, 1993, 1994. European Cup Winners’Cup 1991. European SuperCup 1991. Football League Cup 1992. 53 caps and 2 goals for England. Clubs as a coach: 2006-2007: Macclesfield Town. 2007-2008: Milton Keynes Dons. Since June 2008: Blackburn Rovers.
Honours as a coach: Football League Trophy 2008. Football League Two 2008. Miscellaneous: Ince left a bitter taste in West Ham fans’ mouths when a photograph surfaced of the player in a Manchester United shirt before he had actually officially changed clubs. That has never been forgotten or forgiven and ensures he is treated to “Judas” chants whenever he’s back at his old club. Ince’s 16-year-old son Thomas has won a place in Liverpool’s academy as an aspiring striker. Ince left the world in no doubt about his appetite for the physical side of the game at England’s 1998 World Cup training camp by declaring: “I love tackling, love it..”
The “Guv’nor” breaks down barriers
Paul Ince was a pioneering footballer and nowadays the 41-year-old is a trailblazing manager in the English Premier League with ambitions of conquering Italian football’s Serie A and international football with England.
When Paul Ince reveals that he aims to manage one of the world’s most famous clubs in the shape or Inter Milan and then take charge of the England international side, it would be deeply unwise to scoff at the rookie’s ambitions. That is because “The Guv’nor” has been breaking down barriers all his life and is already setting his sights on maintaining that ground-breaking habit now his managerial career is taking shape.
Ince was a pioneering footballer and nowadays he is a trailblazing manager in the English Premier League with ambitions of conquering Italian football’s Serie A and international football with his country. He broke new ground as the first black footballer to captain England and repeated the feat by becoming the first black Briton to manage a top-flight club when he took over at Blackburn Rovers. Moreover, he is already plotting a return to the San Siro Stadium that he once graced in the shirt of Inter Milan.
By his own admission, his Blackburn job is a far cry from his days as a “scruff)’ little kid” under the late West Ham United manager John Lyall, who spotted his protege at the age of 1 2 and kept him on the straight and narrow amid all the usual social and economic difficulties awaiting kids growing up in tough inner-city areas. “I had to fend for myself from
a very young age,” said Ince. “I grew up in a two-bedroom council flat with my mum, brother, sister, cousins and aunties. I shared a bedroom with my brother, sister and cousin. But I didn’t see it as poor; it was just the way it was.”
A TERRIFIC HONOUR
After fulfilling a childhood dream and making his West Ham debut aged 19, he excelled for the club he supported. Ince was one of the few players to emerge with his reputation enhanced as the Hammers were relegated. Bur he did not have to hang around long, as Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson moved for a midfielder who, as he said, had “two good feet, was quick, useful in the air, could tackle to serious effect and had a winner’s drive”.
Ferguson’s £1-million investment yielded huge dividends as Ince helped end United’s 26-year wait for the English league title, heralding an era of unprecedented success as the Old Trafford team dominated the domestic game. Ince ruled the midfield in authoritative style. His tough-tackling and repertoire of ball-playing skills saw him develop impressive partnerships with the likes of Bryan Robson and Roy Keane at United and Paul Gascoigne at international level.
Ince made his England debut in a friendly against Spain in 1992, and also
secured a place in the history books when he became the first black player to captain his country in the USA in 1993. “That was a highlight of my career because it was such a terrific honour for me and my family,” said Ince. “If I succeeded in inspiring up-and-coming black footballers or breaking down racial barriers, that’s a terrific achievement.”
Branded a “big-time Charlie” by Ferguson, Ince was deemed surplus to requirements in 1995 and moved to Inter Milan, where he still yearns to sort out unfinished business. “My dream would probably be to go and manage Inter Milan in the future,” Ince said. “I had two great years there and I’d love to go back and manage the club.”
Ince returned to his homeland for family reasons and joined Liverpool, despite club president Massimo Moratti’s offer of a new contract. Although the Reds struggled in United’s shadow, Ince established himself as a key figure for his country.
“MY OWN IDENTITY”
Indeed, he played a pivotal role in securing England’s place at the 1998 FIFA World Cup™ finals as Italy were held to a goalless draw in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, where Ince, man of rhe match, became the symbol of the English team’s spirit with his bandaged head and blood-stained shirt. That helped restore his reputation, which had been damaged when he failed to convert a spot-kick during England’s penalty shoot-out defeat to Germany in the semi-final of EURO 96.
Ince was ushered out of Liverpool by manager Gerard Houllier and moved to top-flight rivals Middlesbrough, before dropping down a division to join Wolverhampton Wanderers, whom he inspired to promotion. He tried to launch his managerial career at Wolves following Glenn Hoddle’s departure but was beaten to the post by former Ireland manager Mick McCarthy. He soon left for Swindon, where he operated as player-coach for former England colleague Dennis Wise.
Ince would srart his management career at the bottom, with the new chapter in his life beginning in earnest at Macclesfield in October 2006 when they were seven points adrift at the bottom of the Football League. “I decided to learn my trade at the lower levels,” said Ince. “It was a great opportunity for people to srart recognising me as a manager rather than an ex-England, Manchester United or Inter Milan player. I wanted to forge my own identity as a manager.’
The new challenge started with a 3-2, last-minute home defeat at the hands of Mansfield in front of 2,599 supporters. But Ince was .soon to engineer an astonishing turnaround in the team’s fortunes, conducting reviews of players’ diets, doubling fitness sessions and hiring an ex-soldier, as well as introducing masseurs and compulsory post-training team lunches. “It’s not just what you do on the pitch, it’s what you do off it,” Ince added. “I don’t care what level it is, you can’t just show up, go home and eat fast food … that’s not how football works.”
Thanks to Ince’s inspirational presence, the “Silkmen” avoided relegation on the last day of the season. Then, mission accomplished, Ince was lured to the Milton Keynes Dons and masterminded a campaign that yielded the League Two title and Football League Trophy as his reputation as one of the country’s best up-and-coming managers blossomed.
A PROVEN WINNER
After just a year in charge of the MK Dons, Ince fought offintense competition from the likes of former England manager
Steve McClaren to succeed Manchester City-bound Mark Hughes at Blackburn and so rewrite British race relations history again.
“I cake great pride in becoming the first black British manager in the Premier League – it’s awesome,” Ince said. “It’s a great milestone for me, just as it was a great milestone for me when I became the first black England captain. Hopefully, it can pave the way for the likes of Andy Cole, Ledley King and Les Ferdinand to get into the coaching system and become managers. You’ve got to set your sights high, like I did as a player. As long as your attirude is right, I’ve always thought the sky’s the limit. That’s why one day I’d like to manage England. I’m very patriotic, I love my country, I loved playing for it. In years to come I might get my chance but there are a lor of better managers out there who are probably in front of me.”
Those aspirations will not come as a surprise for Blackburn chairman John Williams, for whom the colour of Ince’s skin was never an issue when it came to employing a new manager. “Paul’s very hungry and he’s clearly driven – he’s a proven winner as a player and manager. The fact that he served his apprenticeship in the lower leagues means his feet are firmly on the ground,” Williams said. “When he signed his contract, I saw genuine excitement and enthusiasm. It was incredibly uplifting and will be infectious on the training ground and in the dressing room and boardroom.”
Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, added: “Of course, Blackburn haven’t made this decision in order to write the club’s name into the history books. Ince, England’s first black caprain, has been awarded this prize because he is focused, savvy and, above all, successful.”
Blackburn want him to bring the same skills to Ewood Park that transformed MK Dons from also-rans to champions. They are not doing that to gain approval, but to win silverware.