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Ince, Paul

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PAUL INCE 1997-99


by Dave Usher


Date of Birth - 21/10/67

Nationality - English

Position - Midfield

Games - 81

Goals - 17

Club hons (Lpool) -

Int Hons - 53 England Caps (17 goals)

Other Clubs - West Ham United, Manchester United, Inter Milan, Middlesbrough, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Swindon Town, Macclesfield Town


Ince was hailed as the 'final piece of the jigsaw' when Roy Evans signed him from Inter Milan for £4.5m in the summer of 1997. The Reds had gone close to winning the title the previous season, but were perceived as being a soft touch and in desperate need of a midfield 'enforcer'. Such was the impact Ince was expected to have he was even handed the captain's armband by Evans. Quite a statement.


The former Manchester United star was a controversial, but seemingly logical choice for Liverpool at that time; a player who could provide drive, bite and goals from the middle of the park. He'd made his name as a promising youngster at West Ham, coming to prominence in a game against the Reds when he scored a spectacular volley. He left Upton Park under a cloud when he was pictured in a newspaper wearing a Manchester United shirt before the deal had gone through. To this day he's still unpopular with Hammers' fans.


At United he was a huge success, forming formidable partnerships in midfield with first Bryan Robson and then Roy Keane, as United became the most dominant force in the land. Ince was a big part of that, but perhaps not as big a part as he would have people believe. The self styled 'Guv'nor' fell foul of the real Guv'nor at United, Alex Ferguson, and was sold to Inter Milan, where he enjoyed two successful seasons and became a popular figure with the Italian supporters. He was also a key man for England.


Despite his on field success with Inter, Ince wanted to return home for family reasons and Liverpool presented him with the perfect opportunity to return to his North West home. His links to United meant he would have to hit the ground running if he was to win over the fans, especially as he was replacing Anfield legend John Barnes in the Reds' engine room.


His debut season at Anfield was a relative success without him ever hitting the heights Roy Evans had hoped. He made 40 appearances in his first season, but the team faltered and in the summer of 1998-99 the club elected to bring in Gerard Houllier to work with Evans in a joint manager set up.


Ince and Houllier never saw eye to eye, and when Evans departed Ince's days at the club were numbered. A strict disciplinarian, Houllier wanted to stamp his authority on a dressing room that had gotten out of hand and he saw the brash, cocky Ince as an obstacle in the way of that. The French boss also suspected Ince of leaking stories of dressing room unrest to the Sunday press and of attempting to undermine his authority amongst the rest of the playing staff, many of whom were young and impressionable.


If Houllier had been in any doubt as to what to do with Ince once the season ended, those doubts were removed in a game at Old Trafford when the Reds threw away a 1-0 lead at Old Trafford in the FA Cup and lost to two late goals. Ince had left the field with an injury late on with the Reds hanging onto Michael Owen's early header and on the verge of a memorable victory. Ince departed, and United scored twice at the death to inflict a sickening defeat and Houllier decided there and then that Ince wasn't the kind of captain he wanted at the club.


Rightly or wrongly, his view was that a captain should have only been leaving the field on a stretcher at that point in such a massive game. Ince's injury was not a particularly serious one and Houllier was apparently furious. That, coupled with the suspicions of Ince being the infamous 'Anfield Mole' meant there was no future under Houllier for the England star.


The summer came, Dietmar Hamann was signed from Newcastle and Ince was sold to Middlesbrough. He would soon let rip at Houllier and assistant Phil Thompson via the press, a move which further damaged his reputation in the eyes of a Liverpool fanbase that had never really been able to fully take to him anyway.


More info on Paul Ince:


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