Tom Ince’s loan move to Crystal Palace has been one of the stranger tales of the 2014 January transfer window.
With reports that five Premier League clubs were chasing his signature, he then looked set to sign for Palace on transfer deadline day before being linked with a late bid from Stoke, then finally agreeing terms with Palace.
It’s taken him long enough to decide where he will ply his trade for the second half of this season, but what was the attraction in the 22-year-old winger?
Coming up are five things that Ince will give to his new club.
Ince has mainly played on the right of midfield for Blackpool this season, but he can play on both wings and in a central attacking midfield position.
As a natural left footer, he tends to cut in from the right wing and will look to spread the ball out to the left wing or shoot from the edge of the area.
Despite being left footed, he is also handy with his right.
These highlights of Blackpool’s fixture with Birmingham show Ince’s ability to find good positions in all areas of the pitch and his comfort with both feet; first with his right foot to find Ricardo Fuller for a goal, then his left to create another chance for Fuller before finding space down the middle to take the ball past the 'keeper and force a goal-line clearance from Birmingham.
It’s not very often you see Ince looking uncomfortable on the ball and his eye for a pass is excellent.
He often gets in strong attacking positions on the edge of the box, and if shooting is not the best option, he will look for a player in a better position.
A quick-thinking, calm player is exactly what a lower mid-table Premier League club needs in the final third of the pitch.
He also looks unfazed when it comes to taking penalties. Despite one penalty miss against Nottingham Forest earlier in the season, his strikes from the penalty spot against Leicester, Wigan and Blackburn have all been well-taken, deliberately placed shots—as you can see 1.48 into this video of Blackpool v Leicester.
Yes, these are two things, but both together have proved a lethal combination.
A winger with pace can give an added dimension to a club, especially for a side that may rely on counter-attacks.
His positivity is shown in two ways; first is his willingness to run behind defenders to get himself into a position where he can either be one-on-one with the goalkeeper and take a shot or pull the ball back to a team-mate in the box.
Secondly, he likes to run with the ball at defenders—putting them on the back foot. His goal in these highlights, starting at 0:40, shows just how dangerous he can be going forward.
Another strong part of Ince’s game is his ability to take good set pieces.
He is very good at putting the ball into dangerous areas for his team-mates to latch on to with a header or to put them in good positions to shoot from a clearance. Blackpool have created numerous chances from Ince’s set plays this season, mainly coming from his inswinging crosses from the right.
As mentioned earlier, he looks unfazed when taking penalties.
This could put some pressure on Jason Puncheon, who signed on a permanent deal on transfer deadline day and who may not be Palace’s chosen spot-kick taker if he carries on taking penalties like he did against Spurs—as shown here.
Ince is still only 22 and therefore is yet to reach the peak of his career.
He has told Tangerine Player on multiple occasions this season that he can get better and wants to improve, score more goals and create more chances.
Despite this only being a loan move, this is Ince’s chance to prove himself in the Premier League, giving him the best possible opportunity to fulfil his potential.
Should they play their cards right, Palace could still benefit from Ince’s potential beyond the loan date if they stay up and he decides to join them on a permanent deal once his contract at Blackpool runs out at the end of the season.
You can be sure that due to the short nature of the deal, Tony Pulis will be desperate to improve his new winger as quickly as possible in order to benefit his side straight away.
Most importantly for Pulis, though, Ince could be the man to bring a bit of spark and create opportunities that his Palace side would not have otherwise made.
Finally, watch the video above to see just what Ince is capable of.