lackburn Rovers is a hard job for Paul Ince

14 December 2008 05:52
One thing is leading to another – no win in five matches has now become no win in 11 – and the club, sensing there is a chance that they could go down, are likely to decide that it is better to take action sooner rather than later. To survive Ince needs a little bit of luck, the backing of his board and an immediate result, but such vital commodities rarely come along in threes.

The game at Wigan on Saturday was Ince's big test, his opportunity to build on the positive aspects of their play against Liverpool the previous week.

But they found themselves 2-0 down after 12 minutes, game over, and as a manager it doesn't matter how much you claim to have the fans behind you or the players behind you, there is no good news in that situation whatsoever.

With the January transfer window approaching, Blackburn could make a statement that they will keep Ince regardless of results in the next three games, but clearly they are not going to do so. Their priority is not Paul Ince, it is Blackburn, and they will not be able to see beyond the statistics of six defeats on the trot and no win in 11. They will see the dangers of being relegated to the Championship and never coming back.

I would be inclined, though, to give Ince one more game. You could say that on recent form there is a serious risk of his team being beaten by Stoke next Saturday, but equally this game could be used as his 'last-chance saloon': it is at Ewood Park, everybody is in it together, and if he gets a result it buys him some time.

But, realistically, will this happen? Probably not. Ince has already asked for more investment in January but why would Blackburn give this kind of promise to a manager they were planning to get rid of?

Blackburn's two fixtures after Stoke, away at Sunderland and at home to Manchester City, are also not too difficult, and normally they would be expecting six or seven points from those three games. But there is a chasm of difference between the Blackburn that played Liverpool and the Blackburn that played Wigan. The players are as much to blame in this as anyone else; they have to fight for their manager.

The first thing that happens to you as a team when confidence hits rock bottom is you start defending poorly. Blackburn's defending in the first 12 minutes at Wigan was catastrophic, there is no other word strong enough to describe it. Stephen Warnock, their left-back, is highly-regarded and in the summer he was attracting interest from several clubs – and yet in his last two games he has made the most elementary mistakes.

Up front Roque Santa Cruz, the one player who can be relied on to win games for Blackburn, has also not been the same since the speculation started about him leaving for Manchester City.

It is the sign of a great manager who can help his players at a time like this, but Ince's problem is that on his break into big-time management, he is forced to live up to the standards set by Mark Hughes.

It is really unfortunate, because I am not one of those who thinks Ince was not ready for the Premier League – what he achieved at Macclesfield and Milton Keynes Dons showed that he was. Blackburn, however, was a hard job for him, because Hughes had taken the club to levels where they should not have been.

I believe that if Ince could have kept Blackburn stable at 11th or 12th in the table he would have been considered to be doing a magnificent job.

There is a comparison here with Harry Redknapp's task at Tottenham – if he had not lifted them to mid-table you would have said he had failed. But such were the clubs they inherited that Redknapp was destined to take Tottenham up the table, while Ince was only ever going to take Blackburn down.

Source: Telegraph