Football: Flawed captain faces cost of being caustic

Norman Fox argues that Liverpool's abrasive leader needs class assistance

SUGGESTIONS that first among the critics of Paul Ince's continuing bad behaviour should be his employers, Liverpool, not only fly in the face of reality but miss the main point: the reason why the club bought him in the first place and why they are unlikely to curb his boorishness either on the field or in the dressing room.

Ince was obtained by Liverpool from Internazionale for pounds 4.2m and by Inter from Manchester United for pounds 7m and by United from West Ham for pounds 1.8m largely because of his caustic nature, not in spite of it. To understand why Liverpool particularly felt they needed him requires nothing more than a glance at the rest of the present team and the under-achieving club he joined last year.

In the years since the club dominated domestic and European football, they have often been lacking in that physical persuasiveness that in the past Tommy Smith, then Graeme Souness, supplied in full, intimidating measure. Before the arrival of Ince, only Steve McMahon had come near to providing Liverpool's pretty, neat passing team with the core of ruthless ball-winning which was so important to the success of the Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley sides.

Souness, McMahon and Ince are first-out-of-the-trenches men, though McMahon and Souness undoubtedly benefited from the fact that in the past so many referees had the "pat 'em on the backside" attitude to discipline. While Ince deserves all the disciplining he gets, his similar pugnacity has referees fingering the yellow card as soon as his name appears on the team-sheet.

The particular problem Liverpool have brought on themselves is making him captain. Captaincy assumes a strong sense of responsibility. Ince interprets that responsibility as a licence to intervene when others would stand back, as he did yet again in Valencia on Tuesday. The club appointed him for the simple reason that no one else could be such an inspiring bully. Judged purely as a constructive midfield player, he has probably always been over-priced, but that was not Liverpool's concern. Their subsequent fault, and one that even the astute Gerard Houllier seems not to have recognised, was the need to provide Ince with a truly imaginative midfield partner of world class.

When Ince comes over as arrogant and defiant in the face of criticism, with his "that's what I'm paid for" attitude, he may fall far below the standards schoolteachers would expect of a player who is supposed to be an icon for youth, but he is saying what he expects his employers want to hear. Having bought him mainly for his belligerent leadership, the chances of Liverpool asking him to make humble apologies for his actions are, to say the least, remote. Additionally, as captain, he seems to believe that any trouble involving other members of the team immediately becomes his problem. Misconceived, no doubt, but that is exactly the way he sees the duties of a captain.

For Roy Evans and England's Glenn Hoddle, Ince's value as a player is something that those of us who are less than sold on his ability possibly fail to appreciate. Hoddle explained: "When he goes forward with the ball, you know that things are going to happen. When he gets into the penalty area the opponents never know what is going to happen. He makes goals and gets penalties." Gets penalties! Again, why should Ince stop doing something that is against the spirit of the game when the England coach seems to be encouraging a cheap form of advantage?

Ince himself says Hoddle's interpretation of his talent for "getting things going" confirms his own opinion of himself. "I got that at Manchester United - determination, aggressiveness. I believe in myself as a leader - every team has got to have a leader." He fostered that during his spell in Italy which began unpromisingly and saw him brave much venomous racial abuse. Because he won over the Italian crowds after being critical of their intolerance, other black players benefited from an improved atmosphere.

To understand why colleagues and coaches value him so highly, you also need to know how much his hollering, gesticulating and physical involvement rubs off on younger, would-be leaders. Nicky Butt, at United, freely admits that his own toughness (which also sometimes becomes irresponsible) came about largely because he felt the full impact of Ince's motivation.

Ince accepts that a difficult childhood left him with a chip on his shoulder which made it difficult for him to accept authority. Over the years he has spoken of how much calmer and self-disciplined he thinks he has become. But would any of his clubs or England have made him the guv'nor (as he calls himself) if he had been sweet -natured? Unlikely.

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data/ MI Analyst

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

Project Manager with some Agile experience

£45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...

PPA Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

PPA Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments