Ince receives tentative Blackburn backing

Blackburn Rovers' defeat by Liverpool has not changed the board's determination to persist with Paul Ince for now, though chairman John Williams insistence yesterday that "the board will make decisions it feels are in the best interests of the club" reflects the precarious position both they and their manager find themselves in.

Rovers are desperate for Ince to succeed and are struggling with the uncertainty of not knowing what inner resources he has for a situation like this. Ince's relationship with Williams is cordial but there is not the depth to their relationship that there was with the four-year partnership that Williams had with Mark Hughes. It is impossible to overestimate the sense of shock which the club's plummet to second bottom in the Premier League has brought to a board unaccustomed to anything like it in recent years. The overriding thought from within the club is that relegation would be calamitous for a side with such a small fan base and no wealthy proprietor.

Though Ince's chippiness at his post-match briefings rarely helps to create a sense of calm, it would be wrong to characterise his performance last Friday, in which he spoke of the "envy" from others for ex-Manchester United players like him and Roy Keane, which created a desire to see them fail, as a defensive one. The headlines might not have conveyed it but Ince's 15-minute conversation with the press was a calm one, flavoured with humour about the local ITV vox pop he saw, in which locals were asked whether he should be sacked. It was no rant.

Though Sam Allardyce, Graeme Souness and even the veteran midfielder Tugay have been touted as potential replacements, talk of Ince's departure remains premature. Saturday's performance will have convinced club officials the squad are still playing for Ince and no decision seems likely before the weekend's visit to Wigan.

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