Following Darren Moore’s departure from Sheffield Wednesday, Paul Ince was rumoured to be the man to replace the promotion-winning manager and my reaction was one of shock!
My reaction doesn’t even have anything to do with the fact that Wednesday had got rid of a manager who had finally got them back to the Championship (Mr Chansiri has given his side of events recently) but the fact that Ince is being linked to this job at a big club, a club with aspirations to challenge at the top end of the table.
In my head, I see Ince as having failed at his management career and can’t believe that Championship clubs will still desire his services. This got me thinking- is he that bad?!
Early Managerial Career
Following a highly successful playing career, Ince first turned his hand to management with then League Two side Macclesfield. The Silk Men weren’t just any League Two club, they were rock bottom and headed for non-league football.
The former Manchester United midfielder, the self-styled ‘Guvnor’, turned the club’s fortunes around remarkably and would take them to safety after achieving 12 wins and 43 points from his 31 games in charge.
With Macclesfield’s Football League status secured, the young manager’s stock was high and he would make the move to MK Dons for the 2007-08 season.
Ince’s glorious start to management continued as he guided Dons to the League Two title and the Football League Trophy. After his first 77 games in league management, Ince was averaging an impressive 1.8 points per game.
Too Much Too Soon?
Handing yourself the nickname ‘Guvnor’ does not suggest that you are a shy and retiring type of individual and the start he had made in management would have only added to Ince’s self-confidence.
However, the Londoner’s self-belief may have got the better of him as he accepted the job at Premier League Blackburn Rovers. In defence of the former Inter Milan player, no League Two manager would have turned this opportunity down, however, realistically no other League Two manager would have had the chance unless their persona and playing career matched that of Ince.
His time at Ewood Park was short, getting sacked before the big man in red made his way down our chimneys. His Premier League record read rather dismally, only taking 13 points from 17 matches before the club called on ‘Big’ Sam Allardyce to rescue the situation.
Return to MK Dons
Ince took a little time out of the dugout before returning to MK Dons for a second stint, this time in League One. Whilst the second spell didn’t quite replicate the first, Ince guided MK Dons to a respectable 12th-place finish in a division containing clubs like Leeds United and Norwich City.
He announced that he would leave the role at the end of the season, citing budget cuts as the reason behind his decision. He was replaced by Karl Robinson who managed to get the club into the playoffs in his first season.
Notts County was his next stop, taking the job in October on a three-and-a-half-year contract. This was the post-Sven-Goran Eriksson Notts County and Ince became their sixth manager in little over a year.
His appointment may not have been welcomed by County fans but, his Blackburn spell aside, Ince still had a decent record in management. He would last just five months in the job before leaving by mutual consent. The return of 26 points from 24 games was rather unremarkable.
Becoming a Championship Manager
Whilst I could understand why Notts County would have plumped for Ince, it is when Championship Blackpool came calling that I would begin to question decisions!
A near two-year exile from management was ended when Blackpool appointed the 53-cap England international to replace Michael Appleton. Ince took over with the Seasiders sitting 14th in the Championship and the move saw him linking up with his son, Tom.
Blackpool completed the season with four wins and three defeats in Ince’s 14 games in charge at the end of the 2012-13 season. The 2013-14 started well and sat top of the division after winning five of the opening six games. However, things quickly turned sour and from November 30th to the time he was sacked, Blackpool had not won a match.
Supporters had turned against the manager, with the Blackpool Supporters Association giving him a vote of no confidence just days before his sacking. They believed his position was ‘untenable’ and that his ‘tactics, attitude and results has destroyed the morale of the Blackpool fans.’
Ince left the club with a record of 1.16 points per game that, when spread across a 46-game season, would equate to 53 points and surely a relegation battle until the final few games. For reference, the club suffered consecutive relegations in the two seasons after Ince and found themselves in the basement division just six years after visits to Old Trafford and Anfield. Perhaps Paul Ince wasn’t all that bad!
The Real EFL Podcast Episode Seven – Reading Woes And Crossing Lines – Out Now
Hannah and Liam are joined by Greg Double from Reading protest group @SellBeforeWeDai to talk about what's going on with the #Royals. Hannah gets very excited about the fixture super computer and Liam… pic.twitter.com/sNZMh2mVh2
— The Real EFL (@therealefl1) June 26, 2023
Reading Football Club
After leaving Blackpool, many would have assumed Ince’s managerial career was over as it was over eight years before he returned to the dugout with Reading.
He was given the caretaker role with the task of guiding the club to Championship safety and four wins and three draws in his first 11 games helped to achieve this. His successful temporary spell in charge then became a permanent appointment in May 2022.
During his tenure at the Madejski Stadium, Ince was dealing with mismanagement of the club at board level and this would eventually lead to a six-point deduction that ultimately led to relegation to League One.
Across Ince’s 41 games in charge, Reading gained 47 points at an average of 1.15 per game. If this record had continued with Ince being given the full 46 games then the club would still have been relegated by the points deduction.
The appointment of Ince at Reading was a surprise, particularly after so long out of the game and a poor spell at Blackpool. I understand that Reading may well have been an uphill battle for anyone at that point and that he had, initially, achieved what he was brought in to do.
For those who pay attention to statistics like points per game, Paul Ince would be in relegation battles in the Championship were he able to complete a full season. He has never been at a club long enough to even begin to build something, across his career and not just in the second tier.
His League One record is slightly better but nothing spectacular, averaging 1.23 points per game. This record would again have any side managed by Ince firmly in the lower reaches of the league.
Ince’s record at League Two level is very good. His 1.82 points a game would propel his side firmly into the promotion race.
His Premier League record is best left alone. A career average of 1.35 points per game would be a mid-table to lower top-half finish. His record suggests he would be suited to lower divisions but it has been quite some time since he found himself at that level and would question whether he would have the same impact as a freshly retired ‘Guvnor’ had in 2006.
Ince may not be an awful manager in terms of points but doesn’t hang around long at clubs, hasn’t had to build a side and wouldn’t fill me with excitement should I see his name linked to my club.
Be wary Watford fans, with the rate your team goes through managers and the fact you’ve just signed Tom Ince leans towards an emergency Paul Ince caretaker stint.