The rise and fall of Paul Ince

The fickle nature of football means that players, coaches and managers can very rapidly become the next big thing and equally their star can appear to fade to dust overnight. History is full of those who shone for a brief period either on the field or in the dugout only for them to disappear into the obscurity from whence they came. Paul Ince does not quite fit this mould, for his achievements as a player certainly merit him a certain amount of due deference from followers of the game as a whole. However, in the field of coaching and management, the reputation gained by on-field glories may bring opportunities that would perhaps not otherwise be available, but the harsh realities of a business where the result is everything spare no man.

Notts County and Ince parted company after just five months having lost five consecutive matches, the most recent being a 0-2 reverse at Meadow Lane against an Oldham Athletic side currently in freefall. Having won the League Two title amid a chaotic backdrop last season, Ray Trew’s anxiety over the retention of their status at this level is understandable. Moreover, there is reason to believe that with the personnel available, the Magpies should be more than two points above the drop zone and ought really to be looking at completing a season of consolidation in tougher surroundings. For the self-styled ‘Guvnor’ it completes a fall from grace that must be hard to take when one remembers how high his stock as a manager once was.

When Ince took over as manager of Macclesfield Town in October 2006, the Silkmen were cut adrift at the bottom of League Two by the not inconsiderable margin of seven points, with relegation already looking highly likely. With no wins in the league up to this point, the size of the task facing a first-timer in the dugout could not be underestimated. Turning around a losing mentality with a limited budget and what could at best be described as an average set of players was not easy, but Ince managed it like a only a good manager can. A 1-0 victory over Rochdale on 5th December was a breakthrough that sparked a remarkable run of results that ultimately brought Macc survival despite a minor wobble towards the end of the season. The bigger budget of MK Dons came calling and Ince again delivered, bringing the first major honours to the club as they won League Two and the Johnson’s Paint Trophy in 2008.

However, it appears to have all been downhill from there. Having earned an opportunity in the Premier League with Blackburn Rovers, the hope at Ewood Park would soon give way to despair as calamitous defending led to the first five-month stint of Ince’s career. His return to MK provided anti-climatic evidence of the maxim of ‘never go back’, while a solid enough start at Meadow Lane was ended abruptly by a famine in the opposing penalty area. Where Ince goes from here is uncertain, for there may be a disparity between the levels at which he aspires to work and the doors that actually open. Perhaps is the moral of the story is to enjoy the ups while they last, for unless your name happens to be Sir Alex Ferguson or Jose Mourinho it would appear that what goes up invariably comes down at some point.

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