Paul Ince: Failure or Scapegoat?

Stuart ColesContributor IDecember 16, 2008

Earlier today, Blackburn Rovers of the English Premier League sacked manager Paul Ince. The side, struggling at the foot of the EPL, have managed just three wins in 17 games this season.

The decision comes as no surprise; Ince was widely rumoured to be on his way out long before this morning. But can Ince's failure be attributed solely to himself?

Probably not.

Mark Hughes was and is a good manager and had run a good team on Blackburn's small budget. When Ince arrived, he inherited Hughes' squad and had to make do and fit them to his way of playing football.

A manager cannot change his style of play overnight. More so, he was not really able to evaluate the players until it was too late and the August transfer window had passed.

Blackburn's Chief Executive, John Williams, is quoted as saying, "Three wins in 17 games has seen a squad which finished seventh last season fall to 19th place. We are currently in danger of becoming detached from the pack."

On the face of it, that seems a fair statement. However, if you look closer at the squad, the two most influential players on the team were sold over the summer.

David Bentley went to Tottenham Hotspur, and Brad Friedel went to Aston Villa. No real replacement was made for Bentley, and England international Paul Robinson was brought in as the new No. 1.

Any Premier League fan will tell you that the change from Friedel to Robinson was a huge downgrade. Friedel was one of the most consistent goalkeepers in the EPL since Blackburn's promotion. Always high in the OPTA ratings, Friedel gave Blackburn a chance to win games by himself, something that goalkeepers are rarely able to do.

An analogy can be drawn to when Blackburn were previously relegated from the EPL. Many fans will believe that the sale of Alan Shearer to Newcastle was the beginning of the end, but in truth it was the sale of central defender and influential captain Colin Hendry that was the key ingredient to the drop out of the top division. 

Other than the 1994-95 championship season, Blackburn have never been a potent attacking side. They have always built from the back, which in truth is the most sensible way to construct a side.

Friedel has won rave reviews from Aston Villa supporters, a side which is currently sitting in a Champions League spot, but deemed surplus to requirements for a side currently mired deep in relegation trouble.

One of last season's key players, Roque Santa Cruz, has been unhappy and looking like he wanted away from Ewood Park since the summer. Rumours were abound that he was going to join up with Hughes at Manchester City. Blackburn tried in vain to help him by signing his 18-year-old younger brother Julio. Still, the Paraguayan has not been up to scratch this season.

Was Paul Ince up to the job? Perhaps not. We'll never know now and the main reason for this is because he was hamstrung and given nothing to work with in his first stint as an EPL manager. The management has made him a scapegoat for the poor decisions they made during the summer.