Everton 2 Blackburn Rovers 3: Ince has instant impact as Rovers mock the critics
Monday 18 August 2008
As a player Paul Ince always was an interesting mix of the craft and the graft, the wit and the grit, the scheming and the scything, so it should be no surprise to find him in the dug-out working from a familiar recipe. Purely on Saturday's evidence it is possible to deduce he wants his Blackburn side to do the light stuff with their feet and the hard stuff with their heart.
Of course, which new Premier League manager would not wish for such a blessed combination? The difference with Ince just might be that he has been around long enough to effect it quickly. After all, he has already used the old "them and us" trick to his advantage. Guv'norship at its best.
Ince took Rovers to Goodison brimming with a point to prove after the torrid summer of "players' unrest" whispers. The word was that with their two best performers, Brad Friedel and David Bentley already down the road, others would soon follow, and the fortunes of the club would then take a similar journey south. When Ince was forced to nail up the "Sale Over" signs last week, the knowing nods multiplied.
But then came a Saturday afternoon on Merseyside, and with a little bit of domination and a little bit of luck the rumours were soon revealed as unfounded. After their last-gasp winner, his men made a point of running over to Ince and so his first day was made. It was wallowing time.
"People have been writing things that just aren't true, trying to unsettle the whole club. But all that crap we've had to suffer, we've just dispelled in 90 minutes of football. That's what makes it all the more sweet for me."
Well, he was half right. The visitors played 45 minutes of football – a lot of it the sharp, one-touch variety not too famous under Mark Hughes's reign – before Paul Robinson had one of those lapses that has affected his England standing and Everton were given a sniff in a game in which they had barely raised a nostril. Until Mikel Arteta fizzed in a free-kick from the angle inside Robinson's unguarded near post, last year's fifth-place finishers in the Premier League resembled exactly what they were – a side full of kids, defenders out of position and senior men out of form.
They might have even gone on to win it from there as the excellent Arteta and Aiyegbeni Yakubu combined to take the lead, but Roque Santa Cruz instantly struck back in front of a watching Sir Alex Ferguson – inevitably, the story goes that he is lining up the Paraguayan should the Dimitar Berbatov deal evaporate – and, at the death, the Netherlands full-back Andre Ooijer turned in a rebound that might well, as Moyes claimed, have been offside.
Still, as Moyes agreed, the scoreline was probably fair, and he knows he has to make signings before the month's end. Although he would never welcome defeat, in hindsight perhaps this reverse was not the worse thing ever to have happened to either him or his club. His bench of teenagers/trainees was almost an embarrassment, but at the very least they afforded a stark reminder of the signings he needs. Many fans will doubtless wonder why certain players were allowed to leave, but the boos at the end were a bit strong.
"I was disappointed with the fans' reaction towards Moyesy because people forget what a great man he has been for Everton," said Ince, clearly a fully paid-up member of the managers' union. "He doesn't deserve that on the first game of the season."
Goals: Dunn (22) 0-1; Arteta (45) 1-1; Yakubu (64) 2-1 ; Roque Santa Cruz (65) 2-2; Ooijer (90) 2-3.
Everton (4-4-1-1): Howard; Neville, Yobo, Lescott, Nuno Valente (Baxter, 78); Arteta, Rodwell, Jagielka, Baines; Osman; Yakubu. Substitutes not used: Turner (gk), Jutkiewicz, Gosling, Agard, Kissock, Wallace.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Robinson; Ooijer, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock; Reid, Dunn (Kerimoglu, 90), Mokoena, Pedersen (Treacy, 76); Santa Cruz, Roberts (McCarthy, 83). Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Villanueva, Simpson, Derbyshire.
Referee: A Marriner (W Midlands).
Booked: Everton Yobo, Yakubu; Blackburn Warnock, Ooijer.
Man of the match: Dunn.
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