Paul Emerson Carlyle Ince (born 21 October 1967) is an English football manager and a former professional footballer who played as a midfielder from 1982 to 2007.
Born in Ilford, London, Ince spent the majority of his playing career at the highest level; after leaving West Ham United he joined Manchester United where he played in the Premier League. After two years in Serie A with Internazionale he returned to England to play in the top flight for Liverpool, Middlesbrough and Wolverhampton Wanderers. After a spell as player-coach of Swindon Town, he retired from playing while player-manager of Macclesfield Town in 2007. He went on to manage Milton Keynes Dons (twice), Blackburn Rovers, Notts County and, after an almost-two-year break, Blackpool. He was capped 53 times by England, scoring two goals.
As a player he won numerous honours with Manchester United, became the first black player to captain the England team and was also the first black Briton to manage a team in the highest tier of English football. His son Tom Ince plays for Football League Championship side Derby County.
West Ham United
Ince grew up as a West Ham United supporter. He was spotted playing, aged 12, by West Ham manager John Lyall around the time that the club was in the Second Division and achieved a surprise FA Cup final triumph over Arsenal.
He signed for the Hammers as a trainee, aged 14. Lyall helped Ince through troubled school times eventually signing him as a YTS trainee, on leaving school, in 1984. He is a product of the West Ham youth team and made his debut in English football on 30 November 1986 against Newcastle United in the First Division. He became a regular player in 1987–88, proving himself to have all-round qualities of pace, stamina, uncompromising tackling and good passing ability. He also packed a powerful shot, and was awarded with England under-21 honours to go with the youth caps he acquired as an apprentice. He firmly established himself as the successor in West Ham's midfield for the veteran Billy Bonds, who retired at the end of the 1987–88 season. Unfortunately for Ince, West Ham were not enjoying one of their best spells when he broke into the team. Despite having won the FA Cup in 1980 and finished third in the league in 1986, they had failed to sustain their challenge for major honours and finished 15th in 1987 and 16th in 1988, and worse was to follow.
In August 1988, an eventful season for Ince began. In a struggling West Ham side, he shot to national recognition with two stunning goals in a shock 4–1 win over defending league champions Liverpool in the League Cup, and continued to score goals as the Hammers reached the semi-finals while having real trouble finding any form in the League. West Ham lost to Luton Town in the semi-finals and, despite frequent displays of individual brilliance from Ince, were relegated at the end of the season, a disappointment which cost manager John Lyall his job after 15 years at the helm. West Ham's relegation sparked inevitable speculation that Ince would be sold to a First Division club, with Manchester United being among the clubs being linked to Ince's signature.
Ince played just once in the Second Division the following season before completing a highly controversial transfer to Manchester United for £1 million. Ince had been photographed in a Manchester United kit long before the transfer was complete, which appeared in the Daily Express. Ince received abuse from West Ham United fans for many years afterwards. The initial move was postponed after he failed a medical, but was quickly completed on 14 September 1989 after he later received the all-clear.
In an article in Four Four Two magazine, he explained:
"I spoke to Alex Ferguson and the deal was close to being done. I then went on holiday, and my agent at the time, Ambrose Mendy, said it wasn't worth me coming back to do a picture in a United shirt when the deal was completed, so I should do one before I left, and it would be released when the deal was announced. Lawrence Luster of the Daily Star took the picture and put in the library. Soon after, their sister paper, the Daily Express, were looking for a picture of me playing for West Ham, and found the one of me in the United shirt in the pile. They published it and all hell broke loose. "I came back from holiday to discover West Ham fans were going mad. It wasn't really my fault. I was only a kid, I did what my agent told me to do, then took all the crap for it."
Ince eventually made his Manchester United debut in a 5–1 win over Millwall, although his next game for United came in a 5–1 Manchester derby defeat by Manchester City. Ince became a strong presence in the United midfield alongside Bryan Robson and Neil Webb, although the first season of this midfield partnership saw Robson and in particular Webb miss many games due to injury. Ince found himself partnering Webb in the centre of the United midfield for most of the 1990–91 season, with Robson absent from the close season until just before Christmas due to injury, with Mike Phelan appearing during Robson's absence.
United won the FA Cup in his first season, defeating Crystal Palace 1–0 in a replay at Wembley after initially drawing 3–3. In both of these games, Ince was selected at right-back in favour of Viv Anderson, with his favoured central midfield position being occupied by Mike Phelan. Ince was man of the match for the replay.
Over the next four seasons, Robson's United career gradually wound down until he finally left to manage Middlesbrough in 1994. During this time, Ince found himself playing alongside several other different central midfielders, including Mike Phelan, Neil Webb and Darren Ferguson. The arrival of striker Eric Cantona in November 1992 saw Brian McClair become Ince's regular central midfield partner until the arrival of Roy Keane the following season.
Meanwhile, Ince became United's key midfielder, with snapping tackles, raking passes and some tremendously hit shots, though he was not too prolific a goalscorer. One of his best games came in January 1994, when he scored in a 2–2 away draw with former club West Ham in the Premier League.
He won his second winners' medal when United defeated Barcelona in the final of the European Cup Winners Cup in Rotterdam in 1991 and received his third another year later when United beat Nottingham Forest in the 1992 League Cup final.
The next year, Manchester United were competing in the inaugural Premier League season with Ince and his best friend at the time, Ryan Giggs at the fore and part of a now legendary team that included Mark Hughes, Eric Cantona, Peter Schmeichel, Andrei Kanchelskis, Steve Bruce and Denis Irwin. Seeking a first League title for 26 years, United won it and Ince completed his domestic medal set just four years after joining the club.
Manchester United continued to dominate the domestic game in 1993–94, enjoying an almost unbroken lead of the Premier League throughout the season, and Ince was the midfield general in the side which won the "double" of league and FA Cup in 1994. A year later and Ince suffered more of the all too familiar chants of "Judas" when he and Manchester United went to West Ham on the last day of the season, needing a win to retain their Premier League crown. Sadly for them, they could only draw the game and Blackburn Rovers took the title. It went from bad to worse as Ince's next game saw them lose the FA Cup final to Everton, leaving United without a major trophy for the first time in six seasons. During that season, his central midfield partner Roy Keane had missed 17 of United's 42 league games due to injury, meaning that Ince often found himself partnered with Brian McClair and – particularly towards the end of the season – the 20-year-old Nicky Butt.
In June 1995, Ferguson sold Ince to Internazionale for £7.5 million – at the time one of the biggest fees involving an English club. Ferguson had long sustained a tempestuous relationship with Ince, labelling him a "bottler" and a "big-time Charlie", which many fans saw as the prime reason for Ince being sold, rather than on footballing or economic grounds. Ince's sale caused unrest among United supporters, and the discontent deepened when United turned to the much younger Nicky Butt as his successor rather than buying a more experienced player. A similar uproar followed the subsequent sale of Ince's team mates Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis, although the younger players who filled their places in the team contributed greatly to United's "double double" success in the 1995–96 season as well as the triumphs of subsequent seasons.
While at United, Ince had collected two Premier League title medals as well as two FA Cup winner's medals and one winner's medal each in the European Cup Winners' Cup and Football League Cup. He had also collected runners-up medals in the League Cup twice and the FA Cup once.
In the 1995–96 season, Internazionale failed to challenge for a 14th scudetto, finishing seventh in the Serie A. Ince, though, had a successful first season, playing in all but four of Inter's league matches and performing well after a slow start which had started speculation of a November transfer window move to Arsenal. The next year, Ince had another successful season with the nerazzurri, scoring 6 times in 24 matches in the championship – in which Inter finished third – and also playing his part in Inter's run through to the UEFA Cup Final. Ince scored in the third round second-leg match away to Boavista as Inter swept all before them before meeting Schalke 04 in the final. Ince didn't play in the away first-leg as Inter lost 1–0 but he returned to the line-up for the home match which the Italians won 1–0 thanks to a goal from Iván Zamorano. Penalties were again a heart breaker for Ince though, as Schalke won 4–1 in the resulting penalty shoot-out.
Despite being offered a new, improved contract by club president Massimo Moratti, Ince decided that after two years away it was time to return to England and he left Inter.
After two seasons in Italy, Ince returned to England in the summer of 1997 so that his son, Thomas, approaching his fifth birthday, could attend an English school. He joined Liverpool for more than £4 million – a move that surprised many because of the long history of rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool, and few players had ever appeared for both of these clubs during their careers.
According to Graeme Le Saux's autobiography, Ince's homophobic taunting and Le Saux's reaction during a 1997 match between Liverpool and Chelsea has resulted in a long-running coolness between the two players, despite the fact that Le Saux is not actually gay.
Ince won no honours in his first season with Liverpool as his new club were in the midst of a transitional period where they were cast as 'nearly men' and, rather derogatorily, 'Spice Boys' – a term coined to describe the likes of team mates and good friends of Ince's like Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler, Jason McAteer and Jamie Redknapp as underachieving playboys in the game; the term itself is derived from the name of the contemporary pop-group, the Spice Girls.
Ince's second season with Liverpool was again trophyless (seventh place in the league meant they would not even be competing in the UEFA Cup the following season) but he achieved a personal high point when he scored a late equaliser against Manchester United at Anfield and celebrated with some ferocity in front of the Kop, though it wasn't enough to deprive United of the Premier League title that formed part of their treble success.
In the summer of 1999, however, Liverpool coach Gérard Houllier put Ince on the transfer list and the 31-year-old signed for Middlesbrough for £1 million. He linked up with his former team-mate Bryan Robson, who had by then been manager of Boro for five years.
As club captain, Ince played three seasons making 106 appearances with nine goals at Middlesbrough before he was given a free transfer in 2002 at the end of his contract by Robson's successor, Steve McClaren.
Ince joined Wolverhampton Wanderers and was playing outside a national top division for the first time since his one brief appearance there for West Ham in 1989, prior to his move to Manchester United. That said, Ince was in the Wolves team which won promotion to the Premier League as Division One playoff winners in his first season. They were relegated after just one season in the top flight (their first since 1983–84), but Ince helped them beat his old club Manchester United 1–0 in mid January and chose to stay with Wolves despite their relegation.
Ince was expected to retire at the end of the 2004–05 season, but he changed his mind halfway through the season following the appointment of Glenn Hoddle as manager of a Wolves side who were struggling at the wrong end of the league. Wolves climbed up to ninth in the final table, proving themselves very hard to beat under Hoddle's management, although they drew too many games to be able to make a late run to the playoff places. In June 2005, he signed a new one-year contract with Wolves. In April 2006, he announced that he wanted to continue playing for Wolves for a further season after speaking with his close friend Teddy Sheringham. However, following Ince's failure to get the manager's job at Wolves in July 2006 on Hoddle's resignation, the newly appointed manager, Mick McCarthy, decided not to offer Ince a new contract. Upon leaving, Ince declared his intention to return, at some point in the future, as manager of Wolves.
Ince made his debut for the full England team in September 1992 in a friendly match against Spain in Santander. England lost 1–0 but Ince proved a success. He was duly awarded his second cap a month later in a disappointing 1–1 draw with Norway in a qualifying match for the 1994 World Cup.
Success at international level was not forthcoming. Ince was booked in a crucial World Cup qualifier against Poland, which caused him to be suspended for a critical 2–0 loss to Norway. However, Ince made history during England's summer tour of the US when, in a match against the host nation, he became England's first black captain in the absence of David Platt and Tony Adams. England lost 2–0.
Ince won his tenth England cap in a 3–0 win over Poland which kept alive their World Cup qualification hopes, though required a victory over the Netherlands in Rotterdam a month later. In a controversial match, Holland beat England 2–0 and qualification hopes had gone. Ince scored twice – his first and only international goals – as the qualifying campaign ended with a 7–1 thumping of San Marino in Bologna. England had needed to win by seven clear goals and hope the Netherlands lost to Poland. Neither occurred, and England failed to qualify.
During Euro 96 Ince was a member of Terry Venables' England team as the midfield ball winner and got the label of "Gazza's minder" whose job was to create room for Paul Gascoigne to exploit with his natural ball skills. Though the first group game ended in a disappointing 1–1 draw at Wembley against Switzerland, England went on to defeat the old enemy Scotland 2–0 and then put on a display regarded as "total football" against (ironically) the Netherlands, the team whose performances at the 1974 World Cup had first prompted the phrase's coining. Ince was fouled for a penalty which gave England the lead and helped them towards a 4–1 win; he also picked up a yellow card which rendered him unavailable for the quarter final against Spain, which England won on penalties.
Venables put Ince back in the side for the semifinal against Germany, replacing the suspended Gary Neville as England switched systems to a back three, accommodating Ince in central midfield with Paul Gascoigne and David Platt. Ince and England played superbly but could only manage a 1–1 draw and England lost the penalty shoot-out. Ince received criticism for not taking a penalty (the crucial missed kick from Gareth Southgate was England's sixth) and for spending the whole shoot-out sitting down in the centre circle with Steve McManaman with their backs to goal.
Another new England coach came on the scene in Glenn Hoddle and Ince kept his place for the next six internationals, which included five crucial qualifiers for the 1998 World Cup in France. England won four of them but lost 1–0 at home to Italy. During the first of these qualifiers against Moldova in Chişinău, a famous photograph of Ince was taken as he tried to climb a wall at the stadium, only for Gascoigne to pull his tracksuit trousers down, revealing Ince's bare buttocks in front of an army of cameras.
Ince won his 30th England cap in May 1997 as England beat Poland 2–0 in Chorzow to leave them with an opportunity to get through to the World Cup provided they could beat Moldova at Wembley and then not lose to Italy in Rome. Moldova were duly dispatched 4–0 and Ince, in an incident reminiscent of Terry Butcher against Sweden seven years earlier, started the Italy match with a white England shirt and ended it with a red one after his own blood soaked the shirt following a deep cut to his head. The game ended goalless and England had qualified.
Ince was selected in the England squad for the World Cup in 1998, winning his 40th cap in the opening group game against Tunisia in Marseille. England got through the group but succumbed in the second round to Argentina, again after a penalty shoot-out. This time Ince did take a penalty but saw it saved.
Due to a red card against Sweden in England's first qualifying match for Euro 2000 Ince was suspended for three matches by UEFA. After initially failing to displace Tim Sherwood and David Batty in Kevin Keegan's new-look side, Ince returned to the XI for the two legged play-off with Scotland as England sealed its place in the Netherlands and Belgium.
In a warm up match for Euro 2000 against Malta Ince came on as a substitute and won his 50th cap. He duly played in all three of England's group games of the tournament – winning a penalty against Romania in the last game – but England lost two of three matches and were eliminated. Ince immediately retired from the England scene.
Swindon Town (player-coach)
After much speculation and prolonged discussions, Ince signed a one-year contract with Swindon Town as a player/coach on 31 August 2006. Swindon were rumoured to have beaten the likes of Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion for his signature. A key factor in the transfer was Ince's long standing friendship with Town manager Dennis Wise, who had played alongside him occasionally in the England team during the 1990s. He made his full debut for Swindon in the 2–1 victory over MK Dons on 12 September 2006.
Ince only played one other game for Swindon after the MK victory – before the club announced that Ince had felt he could not fulfil his playing duties with the club and that his contract had been terminated by mutual consent, although he continued coaching at the club to complete his coaching badges.
On 23 October 2006, Ince was confirmed as the new player-manager of Macclesfield Town in succession to Brian Horton. However, he was ineligible to play for the Silkmen until January when the transfer window opened, as Swindon Town still held his registration. He joined Macclesfield with the club bottom of League Two, seven points off their nearest rivals. He then revived confidence and after a 3–0 win against Chester they managed to climb off the bottom of the table. They subsequently avoided relegation, albeit on the last day of the season. On 4 January 2007 Ince was named as League Two Manager of the Month for December. Ince played his last game of professional football on 5 May 2007 in Macclesfield's 1–1 home draw with Notts County coming off the substitute bench to replace Alan Navarro in the 85th minute of play.
Milton Keynes Dons (2007–08)
Ince was unveiled as the new Milton Keynes Dons manager along with his assistant Ray Mathias and fitness coach Duncan Russell on 25 June 2007. The Dons reached the top of their Division in September 2007 and other clubs began to take a serious interest. In October and November 2007, he denied rumours that he was being linked with managerless Premier League teams Wigan, Derby County and Championship team Norwich City.
Ince was named as League Two Manager of the Month in October and December 2007, and again in April 2008.
Ince's first silverware as manager came in the Football League Trophy final at Wembley on 31 March 2008, with the MK Dons defeating Grimsby Town 2–0. He then secured the Dons' return to League One in April 2008 after they beat Stockport County 3–2. On 26 April, the Dons became League Two champions after they beat Bradford City 2–1.
In the close-season it was speculated that Ince had been contacted by Blackburn Rovers in their search to appoint a new manager, something that Ince himself denied. However, the BBC reported that Ince would be named as Blackburn manager by the end of the week of 19 June. He was appointed on 22 June and became the first black British manager in England's top division. On the first day of the 2008–09 FA Premier League season, Blackburn faced Everton at Goodison Park for Ince's first Premier League game with Blackburn. David Dunn opened the scoring for Ince's side and Roque Santa Cruz and Andre Ooijer later scored in a 3–2 win. Ince's 2008 summer signings included England international goalkeeper Paul Robinson, Danny Simpson (Loan), Vince Grella, Carlos Villanueva (Loan), Robbie Fowler, Mark Bunn and Keith Andrews.
After winning just three games in 17, Ince was sacked on 16 December 2008 after just six months in charge. Ince had been with Blackburn only 177 days, one of the shortest reigns of a Premier League manager. Blackburn fans had been demanding his removal following a 5–3 loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford in the League Cup on 3 December 2008. At the game, the crowd could be heard chanting "You don't know what you're doing" and "We want Incey out" as well as singing the name of their former manager Graeme Souness.
Ince cited his failure at Blackburn Rovers as being due to a lack of financial backing, conditions that were known to Ince at the time of signing for the club. Ince did, however, spend over £10 million on Paul Robinson, Vince Grella and Keith Andrews regardless of these restrictions.
Milton Keynes Dons (2009–10)
On 3 July 2009, Ince signed again for Milton Keynes Dons on a two-year deal. During Ince's second spell the Dons were less successful finishing in 13th place in League One. On 16 April 2010, he announced that he would leave the job a year early, at the end of the 2009–10 season.
Ince returned to management on 28 October 2010, signing a three-year deal with Notts County. On 3 April 2011 he left the club by mutual consent after losing a club record nine games in a row, including a 2–0 defeat to relegation rivals Oldham Athletic the day before.
On 18 February 2013, Blackpool appointed Ince as manager on a one-year rolling contract. He had been watching the team, for which his son Tom played, in person for over a year. Ince took charge of his first match as Blackpool manager on 20 February 2013, a 2–0 defeat against Leeds United at Elland Road. He earned his first win on 9 March 2013, a 2–1 victory against Watford at Vicarage Road.
Under Ince Blackpool made their best-ever start to a league season. Their victory at Bournemouth on 14 September 2013 gave them 16 points out of a possible 18, with five wins and a draw in their first six games. Following the game at Bournemouth Ince was given a five-match stadium ban by The Football Association for his conduct towards a match official in the tunnel after the game. The FA concluded that his behaviour had constituted violent conduct. He was also fined £4,000. Ince left Blackpool on 21 January 2014, after less than a year in charge, becoming their fourth-shortest-serving manager in their history (40 league games). Under his management, Blackpool won 12 out of 42 games and had not won since 30 November 2013.
|West Ham United||1986–87||First Division||10||1||1||0||0||—||—||11||1|
|Manchester United||1989–90||First Division||26||0||7||0||3||2||0||0||0||0||36||2|
|Wolverhampton Wanderers||2002–03||First Division||37||2||3||1||2||0||—||3||0||45||3|
|Swindon Town||2006–07||League Two||3||0||0||0||0||0||—||—||3||0|
|Macclesfield Town||2006–07||League Two||1||0||0||0||0||0||—||—||1||0|
|England senior team|
- Manchester United
- Premier League (2): 1992–93, 1993–94
- FA Cup (2): 1989–90, 1993–94
- League Cup: 1991–92
- Charity Shield (3): 1990 (shared), 1993, 1994
- European Cup Winners' Cup: 1990–91
- European Super Cup: 1991
- Wolverhampton Wanderers
- First Division play-offs: 2003
- Tournoi de France: 1997
- Hammer of the Year: 1989
- Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year: 1992–93
- Premier League Player of the Month: October 1994
- Premier League PFA Team of the Year (3): 1993, 1994, 1995
- Domestic Team of the Decade – Premier League 10 Seasons Awards (1992–93 to 2001–02)
- Milton Keynes Dons
- Football League Trophy: 2008
- Football League Two: 2007–08
- Football League Championship Manager of the Month: August 2013.
- "Ince and Vaughan named Manager and Player of the Month". Sky Sports. 6 September 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
Ince's son, Tom, has played for the England national under-17 football team and for Ince's former club Liverpool. On 1 November 2010, Ince put through a two-month loan deal to bring Tom to Notts County and on 3 August 2011 Tom signed a two-year contract with Blackpool. Ince is also the uncle of singer Rochelle Humes and cousin to former boxer Nigel Benn, footballer Rohan Ince and Trinidadian goalkeeper Clayton Ince.