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Paul Ince: I'd rather be in the dugout than have to sit on the pundits' sofa

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20 Feb 2011 00:30:46

Paul Ince: I'd rather be in the dugout than have to sit on the pundits' sofa

Bleary-eyed and bedraggled, Paul Ince had no chance of savouring the previous night's hard-fought victory for his club Notts County against Colchester United with a well deserved lie-in. The former England captain had arrived back at the family home in Heswall, on Merseyside, at 1.30 on Wednesday morning, triumphant at his team's vital win if still a little damp after getting soaked in near-monsoon conditions. Now the clock was showing 7.30am, barely time to have got comfortable. But within the hour, he would be off on the familiar 120-mile route to Meadow Lane, Nottingham. Still standing: Ince says he's glad he's still directly involved with football This time, it was not the first team to see but a County reserve game, kicking off at the unlikely time of 11am. At bigger clubs Ince might have been able to delegate but not at County, where his back-up team consists of assistant Alex Rae and coach Dave Farrell. It is fair to say Ince's lifestyle has changed dramatically since he was labelled a 'big-time Charlie' by one of his former managers, Sir Alex Ferguson. Ince is no longer the 'Guv'nor' of old, playing for Manchester United, Liverpool and Inter Milan. He spends Saturday nights poring over Notts County DVDs rather than clubbing. Forthright and opinionated, Ince would have made an ideal television pundit if he had wanted to join his peers Alan Shearer, Jamie Redknapp and Steve McManaman on the studio sofas. Instead, he is happy to work at the coalface. Life in League One is a daily slog for survival with the odd beautiful moment of respite. Today's FA Cup fourth-round replay at Manchester City is such an occasion. He is unique among England's Euro 96 generation in trying anything to become a top manager.  Gareth Southgate, sacked from his first managerial job at Middlesbrough, has opted to become the FA's head of elite development rather than put himself through the rigmarole again. Teddy Sheringham makes no secret that he regards playing the poker circuit as a better bet than being a manager. Not so Ince. Having taken his first job at Macclesfield Town when they were bottom of the Football League, he has no regrets about returning to the lower echelons after his first Premier League job at Blackburn Rovers in 2008 ended in the sack after less than six months. 'I played with some great England players and it's disappointing for me that there aren't more of them having a go as managers,' explains Ince. 'People like Ian Wright have walked out of the game. I've bumped into others like Wisey (Dennis Wise) who have been managers but now tell me they aren't in any rush to get back in. I find the whole thing sad. 'How can it be right that an England captain like Tony Adams is working in Azerbaijan?' Golden boys: Ince celebrates with Alan Shearer Nobody would have blamed Ince if he had also walked away when he was sacked by Blackburn after having to sell his best players, Brad Friedel and David Bentley. But he stresses: 'It didn't sour my confidence, it made me more determined to prove I'm a winner. For me, being a manager is the next best thing to playing. 'I've never said it had to be in the Premier League or working with players like Ryan Giggs. I'm happy to get my hands dirty and learn my trade properly. I'm in a fortunate position financially. I could sit home and watch TV. But I love being a manager.' Ince, 43, is almost as lean as he was when he won the Double with United and secured a big-money move to Inter. Those he rubbed up the wrong way, normally opposition fans, might be surprised at the unsung job he is doing at County, still in recovery after over-ambitious owners Munto Finance nearly bankrupted the world's oldest club. He works with a small staff, little investment and a bogheap of a pitch the club share with Nottingham rugby union team. 'It's worth it for games like the third round against Steve Bruce's Sunderland,' he says. 'We had a team that cost nothing and beat them. I was able to sit down at home with a glass of wine and a smile on my face because we'd got it right tactically, and against my old team-mate Brucey as well.' Ince has had time to reflect on his time at Ewood Park. He acknowledges he made a mistake by trying to become too close to the players. 'I think I tried to become a bit too friendly,' he admitted. 'I thought that's what you had to do in the Premier League. Next time, I wouldn't change for the sake of others. TV Test: But Ince quickly realised it was not for him My style isn't to hit players with a stick but, at the same time, I learned if you give the players an inch at that level they will take a mile. 'Maybe I wasn't ready for it. I had players throwing their toys out of the pram and ringing their agents if they weren't in the team. It was a madhouse, like looking after 24 kids.' Ince is convinced a Premier League club will come knocking again. Certainly he has built a good reputation in the lower leagues, saving Macclesfield from relegation, winning the League Two title with MK Dons and now earning County two famous FA Cup results beating Sunderland and then holding City to a 1-1 draw. 'I am looking forward to locking horns with Roberto Mancini again,' he said. 'I admire him. He knows what he wants. He's helped by being able to get players out the door, knowing he can afford world-class replacements. Dream start: Ince won the League Two title when manager at MK Dons 'If Adebayor upsets him, he can sign Dzeko. But he is getting his rewards now for staying strong. The egos are under control after the in-fighting. 'It reminds me of Fergie. He had big characters like Roy Keane, Peter Schmeichel, Bruce and myself in the dressing room but kept it under control.' Ince has an affection for football's traditions. 'I don't want to be called old fashioned but there are some traditional parts of the game worth keeping,' he says. 'Snoods, pink boots, headphones? I think clubs should get together and draw up a code of conduct for players,' he argued. 'I saw Ashley Young wearing headphones while he was being interviewed on television. What's that about? I don't think it's respectful. 'Adebayor turned up to a game in jeans and a hat that was clearly some kind of fashion statement. I know he wasn't playing but, yes, I am old school in that respect. If a player at County comes to a game, he's got to wear a suit, whether he's in the squad or not.' Ince, whose son Thomas is on Liverpool's books, almost regards his spell in the lower leagues as a breath of fresh air. He said: 'I'm ambitious but there are a lot of things I enjoy about the game in League One; the honesty, the commitment, the fans turning up to help the team rather than moaning. 'I've been allowed to get on and do my job at County. Premier League managers have a campaign to sack them after two games. It's hard work but I am so glad I will be in the dug-out this weekend, not the TV studio.'  Manchester United 1 Crawley Town 0: Brown ends the Cup dream of non-leaguersUnited starlet who intimidated victim of knifepoint mugging is spared jailForget the Premier League, Sir Alex is dreaming of Grand National gloryMan United to resume chase for Everton starlet Rodwell with ?15m bidManchester United news, features and opinions


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