The Guvnor: Out of Work and Out of Order

by Wally Downes

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

As I settled to down to peruse the Sunday papers a few weeks back I came across Paul Ince’s column in The News Of The World. The ex-players column is a misleading article because few, if any, are actually written by the star. Some are written jointly with a PR consultant, most are written up completely by an anonymous party with the household name simply adorning it with their face and signature.

Ince’s column however had a real personal touch. Professional journalists and fellow columnists Rob Shepherd and Andy Dunn had aired their grievances about Rafa twiddling his thumbs while Liverpool burns, Peter Storries culpability in the Portsmouth fiasco, FIFA’s dismissal of goal line technology and they even took the time to celebrate the achievements of Roy Hodgson at Fulham this season. Ince however had another idea.

‘The Two Men I Detest And Will NEVER Forgive’ was the then MK Dons managers reply to Sam Allardyce admitting, in the build up to Blackburn’s game with Liverpool, that he likes to wind Rafa Benitez up a bit before games. What ensued for the next 5 or 6 paragraphs were the vehement and vitriolic ramblings of a seriously bitter man? All the traits that caused Sir Alex Ferguson to once label Ince a Bully came pouring out.

The first victim of the midfield general’s rant was Graham Le Saux. The two parties have a different story as to what caused their spat but both agree that it stems from a match fought out between Liverpool and Chelsea in October 1997. Ince accuses Le Saux of insulting his wife in an unprovoked attack, Le Saux claims that Ince hurled homophobic taunts at him all game and admits to the Mrs. Ince jibe but insists it was certainly not an unwarranted reply.

“If I ever come face to face with him (Le Saux) I’d knock him out as soon as look at him”
The other figure of vengeance for Ince is Lou Macari who Ince claims
“I actively detest and I will never forgive.”

Macari’s crime? Not bowing to Ince’s wage demands 24 years ago when Macari took over a West Ham side that contained the 19-year-old Ince.

The Macari grudge is a menial one at best, how much hatred would encompass football if every teenager, rejected by his boyhood club, waged a smear campaign for neigh on a quarter of a century against the offending manager. It makes no sense. The La Saux issue is different, insulting a man’s wife is a serious offence and I am not criticizing Ince’s attitude towards the ex-Southampton player. What surprises me is that Ince feels the need to vent his spleen at two people, one a 61-year-old-man, so late on and in such an unprovoked manner.

The animosity between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali is legendary, it involves the raw emotions and political ideology, the two men waged a war on each other, and few people in the world feel rivalry of that intensity. The two warriors stood toe to toe and tried to kill each other three times; their mutual hatred is understandable.
Ince’s attack on Le Saux is a cheap shot greedily taken by the recently proved quitter. Ince has been given a platform to voice his opinions and he is merely using it to wage personal attacks.
The self styled ‘Guv’nor’, who detested his self-appointed moniker so much he drove a car adorned with personalized registration plates spelling out the nickname has walked out on MK Dons for a second time. Claiming to be disillusioned with the budgeting scheme for next season Ince walked, whether it had anything to do with the five-match touchline ban he recently incurred or his attack on the MK Dons fans who had the affront to criticize the managers tactics during a 0-0 draw with Oldham is debatable.

There is something about The Guv’nor that doesn’t sit well with me, I have never met the man, this is not a personal attack, and these are facts. Despite being blessed with a fine technique for striking the ball Ince shunned the opportunity to take a penalty in the shoot outs in the Euro ’96 semi-final for England and Inter Milan’s 1997 UEFA Cup final, on both occasions Ince finished on the losing side, his peers unable to triumph in the high pressured scenario. Virtually shamed into taking one in the 1998 World Cup he finally stepped up to the mark and missed, England fell to Argentina again.

I get the feeling that, despite his famous Terry Butcher-esque photo, Ince may not be the man I want alongside me in the trenches. Yes he was a combative player; he was an excellent tackler, an attribute highlighted today as it becomes more and more of a lost art but does a brave man brazenly pick on two seemingly defenseless characters.

In his managerial career he has embraced and benefitted from the fast track system that allows former players to gain their badges and land high profile jobs yet, on more than one occasion throughout his career, he has been accused of being fast to play the race card when things have gone belly up.

What if Le Saux decided to dip his toe in the madhouse of management and was drawn up against an Ince run side? The big man must be seen to stand by his big threats, his bile is not spare of the moment, it has festered, it has been rehearsed and it has been edited. Would The Guv’nor emerge from the tunnel last out to build up the tension, finally gracing the stadium with his bare-chested presence like he did so often in his prime or will he resort to sitting in the centre circle, back to the action, afraid to face the inevitable, a move he also has a proven track record of doing.

Read Wallies excellent blog

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