AT HOME WITH PAUL INCE

Paul Ince was happy to talk, he said, but only if I went round to his house. It was just after Manchester United had won the championship in 1994, 10 days before they were due to play in the Cup Final and Paul Ince was inviting me into his parlour. It is not the kind of invitation you turn down.

His house was in Bramhall, south of Manchester, in a cul-de-sac of five or six large, detached brick built villas. His had a couple of distinctive touches - the mock Tudor flourishes, the Mercedes with the personalised number plate parked on the brick drive. It was also on the side of the street where the gardens backed on to a new golf course.

The player himself wasn't home - he was still training - but his wife suggested I should sit in the lounge and wait. She provided me with a cup of tea, before returning to instruct her cleaner about polishing the kitchen. This allowed me 10 minutes to behave as though I was presenting Through the Keyhole. Though Loyd Grossman would have had a bit of difficulty disguising who this house belonged to, what with that large, gilt-framed photograph of the family Ince hanging over the mock-Adam, mock-marble fireplace.

So who would live here? The room was forensic in its order, no domestic clutter besmirched it. In each corner were reproduction Regency cabinets. Two contained Mrs Ince's collection of porcelain figures, the overspill of which marched along the window ledge. In a third was a stereo system, and in the fourth (a massive item almost the size of an executive box at Old Trafford) was the television equipment. A variety of remote controls rested on the otherwise empty coffee table which sat in front of the sofa. Otherwise the room was empty, until Ince arrived and filled it with his noisy chat.

When Ince went to Italy to play for Internazionale, he spent ages finding a house, turning down everything the club found him. The Italians took this as arrogance. Which was unfair. Of all the lake-side palazzo and Milanese villas the club offered, none was on an executive cul-de-sac with the garden backing on to the golf course.

Jim White

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