Paul Ince has a mountain to climb at Blackpool
By Chris Higham
Last Monday, after almost 40 days without a manager, Blackpool finally were able to announce former Notts County and MK Dons manager Paul Ince as their new boss at Bloomfield Rd. Given the present set of circumstances at the Championship club, Ince faces a tremendously difficult task to prevent his new club from relegation to League One.
It hardly seems more than a few months ago when Blackpool Football Club overcame Cardiff City 4-3 in the Championship Play-Off Final at Wembley Stadium to gain promotion to the hallowed ground that is the Barclays Premier League.
What ensued the following season for fans of the club was an almost "Alice in Wonderland" trip through some of the most exciting football seen in England for many years. Experts crowned The Seasiders as "The Most Entertaining Team in England" and despite some narrow losses, a mid-table position at Christmas time in 2010 promised well for the future.
However, Ian Holloway's team suffered a debilitating run of poor results that finally ended with relegation on the final day of the season at Old Trafford. Over the next couple of seasons, Blackpool consistently challenged for promotion and even made it back to the Play-Off Final again last season, only to be pipped by a strong, physical West Ham United team.
At the start of the current campaign, I had picked Blackpool to grab one of the automatic Promotion Places as they had assembled a team that could play some of the most devastating football in the Division on its day.
Little were we to know that the wheels were about to come off. In November 2012, Ian Holloway had a "falling out" with Chairman Karl Oyston and headed South for greener pastures at Crystal Palace. His replacement, Michael Appleton, lasted only 65 days before he jumped ship and accepted an offer to manage Blackburn Rovers. Only now has the ship righted itself, for the time being at least.
The Ince hiring has quite a story behind it which peels back some of the darker shadows of how Chairman Karl Oyston runs the club. Ince Snr has been a regular fixture at Blackpool games now for a couple of seasons as his son, Tom Ince, who plays for Blackpool, is arguably the best player in the Championship.
According to reports, Oyston looked over as many as twenty applications before talking to Ince which suggests in no way was he anywhere on the Oyston radar until top candidates such as Sean O'Driscoll, Billy Davies, Owen Coyle and Nigel Adkins had already given the thumbs down.
Infrastructure at Blackpool is frankly, a disgrace. The training ground is no more than a Sunday pub pitch and the stadium field is one of the worst in the country. The majority of the playing staff are all on contracts that expire at the end of this season, and Ince's rolling contract suggests that this is a short term appointment.
The Club President, a Latvian banker named Valeri Belokon, a friend to Prince Charles, is under indictment for money laundering and Oyston's father, Owen Oyston, spent time in jail while still on the Board of Directors. All of these difficult issues affect how any potential employee views an organization.
Supporters of the club will wax lyrical about the lack of spending from the Chairman and Oyston himself has stated in the past that the Premier League money was a way to guarantee survival for a club that continually struggles financially.
Promises of expenditure on new facilities have been empty which explains why Holloway, and then Appleton left. In addition, the Chairman has always insisted that any new manager should continue to use the current backroom staff.
Anyone that has been around the game for any length of time, knows that a manager worth his salt wants to bring his own people in. Oyston's stubbornness only served to narrow the field of applicants to either managers who had been out of the game for several seasons, or veteran players looking to get into a coaching role. Hence, the approach to Paul Ince.
This article is not meant to be a criticism of Ince himself.
Despite his lack of success at the helm of his previous two clubs, I believe he is genuine and wants to correct the slide that the club currently finds itself in, but I maintain that he's been set up to fail, and he knows that.
Only a desperate man would take this job in its current form, or a man with a different agenda. Enter Tom Ince. With his son attracting attention from some big Premier League clubs, Ince Sr has an opportunity to oversee his son's development and to make sure that Ince Jr plays in his preferred spot for the team on the left wing, or just behind the striker. The net result here is that the club suffers, in my opinion.
I have been a Blackpool fan since I was a Season Ticket Holder as a 10 year old boy and it breaks my heart to see the club run in this fashion. Paul Ince has a massive task ahead of him to turn the fortunes around of a club that only six months ago, was an odds on favorite to make a return to the Barclays Premier League. I wish him well in his endeavours but my fear is that Paul Ince, while meaning well, is already doomed to failure.