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- Alex Paylor -

Published: Sept 06 98

"Very Ince-teresting"

So where is the vitriolic campaign directed against Paul Ince?

Hey, if David Beckham deserves it, then why not Ince?

After all, had England not been reduced to 10 men against Sweden in this past weekend’s Euro 2000 qualifier then maybe they could have come home with at least a draw. But reading the Sunday newspapers and seeing the Ince dismissal receive little more than passing mention makes my blood boil.

Don’t get me wrong. I do not want Paul Ince to be the target of the kind of hate campaign of which David Beckham has been the target ever since he was, unjustly in my opinion, sent off against Argentina in the World Cup. No-one deserves that kind of treatment.

But, can anyone tell me what the difference is between the two incidents? In fact, to me, what Ince did was far more stupid than Beckham’s act of folly.

In the full knowledge he was already on a yellow card, Ince launched a horrendous tackle on Henrik Larsson. Did he expect referee Pierluigi Collina to ignore it? Even the pub league player knows enough to restrain himself when under the cloud of a caution.

But so far there has been no cry for Ince’s head, or at least his humiliation. And I doubt there will be. West ham fans won’t talk of brandishing 10,000 red cards in Ince’s face when Liverpool plays at Upton Park this season. Liverpool fans will suffer collective amnesia, and will barrack Beckham while ignoring Ince’s indiscretion.

So what’s the difference? We all know the answer to that question. Beckham is a Manchester United player, and as such is fair game for the idiot element, a larger contingent amongst football supporters than most of us would like to admit. Ince is on Liverpool’s books, and since Liverpool have been nowhere near as successful as United this decade, the club’s players aren’t anywhere near as reviled as are United’s.

With all due respect to Ince’s wife, Claire, she isn’t a rich and famous celebrity in her own right. Beckham’s fiancée is, and that fact seems to make the couple and their relationship valid targets for some of the most obscene verbal viciousness ever heard at any football ground.

Is it fair? Of course not. But it is a fact of life that with success comes envy, and hatred.

United players, and fans are used to it.

But a situation like this illuminates how unjust it really is.

While speaking of England internationals, I wonder just how long it will be before Glenn Hoddle either jumps or is pushed. To my mind, it can’t happen too soon. England will win nothing under Hoddle. When you lose the respect of the players you are done. Ask Wilf McGuinness and Frank O’Farrell, to draw upon the experience of just two managers from United’s past.

In Hoddle’s case, he has no-one other than himself to blame. Oh, he will find others to condemn for his situation. But the truth is Hoddle has committed hari kari with the pen, which it has long been said is mightier than the sword.

Let’s put it this way. You have a boss who has told everyone he knows about your work habits, and about mistakes you have made in the workplace. Now, you know he has made enough mistakes of his own, but you hear through the grapevine he has managed to place the blame for those mistakes on you and your fellow workers. The question is: Do you ever want to work for this self centered, self righteous sod again? I wouldn’t, and I don’t think most of the England players do either.

I believe what goes on behind the scenes should stay there. If a player has a bad half, or game, he usually knows it. That is not to say the manager shouldn’t have a go at him in the dressing room. However, the boss steps out of bounds when he tells anyone willing to listen what was said. To me Hoddle’s original sin, a fitting expression in this case, was his pathetic performance after the Argentina game this past World Cup.

He pilloried Beckham, piling the blame for England’s penalty shootout defeat on the young midfielder’s shoulders. Right there he proved to me was incapable of the job. He may have been "telling it like it is" in his mind. But, in my view, he abandoned a talented young player who had been harshly treated by a clown of a referee who was totally out of touch with the match which he was officiating. Hoddle should have stood by his player in his public pronouncements. Instead he threw Beckham to the wolves.

By revealing incidents concerning other players of the ‘98 England world Cup side he has done exactly the same to them. You can’t cut players off at the knees, then expect them to run through walls for you. Their attitude and behaviour will change, afraid they will be a chapter in your next literary effort.

I recall an incident related in the book "Whose Side Are You On, Ref?" by Norman Burtenshaw which would seem apt to relate here.

This former top English referee said he once heard this from a player, in the tunnel before the start of a match. "Right, lads, we’ve heard what the boss wants us to do. Now let’s go out and do the exact opposite." And his teammates laughed. They had no respect for, or belief in their manager. This is the way I believe most England players must now feel about Hoddle.

I know another England manager about whom it was said "For God’s Sake, Go!" In Hoddle’s case it just seems so much more appropriate.

One last thought about England international players and their books. It took a lot of courage for Tony Adams to write as honestly as he did about his battle with alcoholism. I admire him for that. I hope he continues to win this battle, because every day is a renewal of the struggle for any person addicted to any substance. I pray Adams retains the strength to successfully fight his addiction for the rest of his life. I have similar thoughts for Paul Merson, whose triple addiction put him through much worse pain than any horrors hell could hold. And I pray Paul Gascoigne will finally the face a truth, which seems evident to most observers, although those closest to him deny it. Gazza has a drinking problem. One of the signs of being an alcoholic is when people around you remark on how much you drink, and how often you drink. And since most alcoholics become quite adept at hiding exactly how much they are imbibing, you know when people notice it, there is a real problem.

For whatever his agent, hanging on to the gravy train as tightly as he can, says, Gazza shows every sign of being an alcoholic. Instead of the false reassurances of those he drinks with, and of those who make at least part of their living off what Gascoigne earns, he should listen to those who really love him, and care about what happens to him. But most of all, Gascoigne should listen to that voice coming from somewhere inside of himself which says "There is a problem here. Ask for help". I am sure he has heard that voice. I am hopeful someday he will listen to it, for as we all know hearing and listening aren’t always the same thing.


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