Football: Taylor appoints Ince to 'lead by example': United's powerhouse carries on in the footsteps of Robson as he prepares to captain his country against the US

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The Independent Online
THE tame surrender in Oslo last week persuaded Graham Taylor that warmongers win more than pacifists, and Paul Ince, who was condemned for his belligerent approach to the World Cup tie in Poland, will tomorrow become England's third captain of the season.

The man Manchester United regard as their new Bryan Robson takes another large stride in the old master's footsteps by leading his country for the first time in the US Cup match here against the United States.

Ince takes over the captaincy in only his seventh international, expecting his tenure to be brief. He owes his elevation to the ankle injury David Platt sustained playing for Juventus at the weekend.

If the appointment is temporary it is still an indication of the high regard Taylor has for the combative midfielder who, at 25, becomes England's first black captain, and the least experienced since Gerry Francis was given the job in 1975 on only his fifth appearance.

Little more than a week ago, Ince was the subject of a managerial dressing down for 'making war' on the Poles, but the pugnacity which saw him booked in Katowice and subsequently suspended would have been welcome in Norway, and the morale can only be enhanced by a sleeves- rolled skipper, who says he intends to 'lead from the front'.

Why Ince in preference to seasoned campaigners like Chris Woods and John Barnes? 'I'm a bit wary of having goalkeepers as captains,' Taylor said, adding that 'John has got his own game to sort out, and may not be in the side.'

Ince, Taylor felt, had played 'extremely well' in six of his seven internationals (the exception was Poland), and had just finished an 'excellent season' with United. In the past, he had been regarded as 'something of a tearaway' but he had curbed his temper and was a better player for it.

'We saw the importance of Paul Ince when he missed the game against Norway. I know he will lead by example.' The team he leads will be an inexperienced one, with Barnes again likely to be left out, Des Walker in line for what is euphemistally described as 'rest' and Tony Adams at home, having his hernia repaired.

The Americans looked toothless and tactically naive in losing their first game 2-0 to Brazil on Sunday, but the level of expectation here is absurdly high and they confidently expect to win the World Cup they are staging in 12 months' time.

England should be good enough to disabuse them, whoever plays, but their self-belief took a terrible battering last week, morale is fragile, and nothing can be taken for granted.

Taylor is looking, and sounding, anxious. It was important that he kept his nerve, he said. 'Against Norway we had nine players who had a bad day at work, and if that happens you get what we got. We shouldn't analyse too deeply. It's time to put it aside and get on with the next one.'