Paul Ince's future remains in doubt after Blackburn's sorry show at Wigan

14 December 2008 06:12
There was no Wigan cheer for beleaguered Blackburn manager Paul Ince, whose future remains increasingly in doubt following a sixth successive defeat in a sequence of 11 league games without success.

Overwhelmingly outclassed at the JJB Stadium, it left the Blackburn chairman, John Williams, refusing to comment on Ince, appointed in the summer following a two-year managerial apprenticeship in League Two where he initially rescued Macclesfield from relegation before taking MK Dons to promotion.

However, speculation is mounting that Ince will be dismissed once the Blackburn chairman has completed celebrating the wedding of his son, which took place on Sunday and that a successor could be installed before Saturday's home game against Stoke, a fixture now of increasing significance.

Blackburn remain second bottom, five points from safety and their plight is in stark contrast to bitter east Lancashire rivals, Burnley, riding high in the Championship and Carling Cup semi-finalists. The prospect of the clubs exchanging places could remain paramount in Williams' thinking when a decision is made.

Indeed, the Burnley manager, Owen Coyle, could be among the list of contenders to replace Ince along with Sam Allardyce and Alan Curbishley, both instantly available. Rovers' supporters turned on Ince after they had conceded twice in two minutes and even home fans compounded his anguish as they added their taunts with Wigan so superior that the margin of defeat could have been more embarrassing.

Yet Ince remains defiant that he can turn Blackburn's fortunes.

"We need to believe we can beat Stoke. We're hurting. We've let ourselves, as well as the fans, down. I understand their frustration, but it's easy to drop your heads; you have to keep on fighting.

"As far as we're concerned there's no pressure. Everyone expects us to lose every game. Stoke is a massive match. If we win, it sets us up nicely for Sunderland."

Ince has not enjoyed the easiest of starts managing at the highest level. While Blackburn are financially restrained compared to a majority of Premier League clubs, he has been additionally burdened by a string of injuries that have denied him the services of key players, although Ince would clearly not endorse that as an excuse for the club's current dilemma.

In the first instance, it was perhaps a brave decision by the Blackburn board to recruit a manager with limited experience as successor to Mark Hughes, who left for Manchester City. In those circumstances, Williams and his fellow directors would be admitting it was a mistake if they do sack Ince who would be due a substantial compensation package after a mere 176 days in the job.

The alternative is to allow him to continue in the hope that, as a bright English managerial prospect, he has the capabilities to manage at the summit. That, however, might ultimately prove an even braver road to take than when initially appointing him.

Ince, nevertheless, found an ally in Wigan opposite number, Steve Bruce, who accepted that his team's excellent performance had been overshadowed by the situation surrounding his former Manchester United team-mate. "We had nine points this time last year so there is time for Blackburn to get out of trouble. They are capable of that because they have good players.

"Their confidence is low, but that comes with results. You go home at night and think 'which way can I turn it round, what can I do?' You can listen to advice, but you've got to do it your own way; stick to your beliefs."

Blackburn's confidence was shredded as early as the 10th minute when the outstanding Ecuadorean Antonio Valencia set up Emile Heskey for a clever close-range finish. Valencia then ripped Rovers apart to deliver a devastating second, Lee Cattermole struck the bar from further Valencia prompting and then finally earned his reward with a 77th-minute third, the 11th conceded by Blackburn in their last three games.

Rovers party on

Blackburn's players went ahead with their Christmas party in Dublin despite the mounting pressure on Paul Ince. It is understood Tugay and Roque Santa Cruz were not present as they flew out just hours after their crushing defeat.

Ince was thought to have scheduled his own celebration for his backroom staff on Sunday but decided to cancel it in the wake of Saturday's result.

Source: Telegraph