We continue our look back at the Silkmen stars of yesteryear by featuring a former England hero, whose time at the Moss Rose may well have been short - but was also unforgettable.
Paul Emerson Carlyle Ince was born in 1967 in Illford, London. Growing up a West Ham fan, he was spotted at the age twelve by manager John Lyall and signed for The Hammers as a trainee a few years later. He made his debut on 30th November 1986 in a First Division match against Newcastle United.
Establishing himself in the First Team during the late 1980’s, Ince started gaining attention from other sides, helped somewhat by two stunning goals in a shock win over defending champions Liverpool in the League Cup in 1988. When West Ham were relegated in 1989, speculation mounted that Ince would be making a move to another First Division club before long.
Playing for West Ham just once in the Second Division, Ince then completed a highly controversial move to Manchester United for £1 million in 1989. A picture of Ince wearing a United shirt was released by the Daily Express long before the transfer had been completed, causing West Ham fans to direct much hatred towards him for many years to follow.
Ince was never far from drama both on and off the pitch, but quickly became a crucial part of the midfield at Old Trafford. He initially formed a partnership with Neil Webb and Bryan Robson, gaining a reputation for strong tackles and pin-point passes. He remained at United for six years and played over two hundred times - also making his England debut during this time.
Ince was then sold to Internazionale in June 1995 for the huge sum of £7.5 million.
The 1990s were hugely successful for Ince as a player, with two years in Milan followed by another move that raised eyebrows across the world of football when he signed for Liverpool in 1997. Part of the ‘Spice Boys’ generation on Merseyside, trophies were scarce but Ince did score a late equaliser against former club United at Anfield, celebrating rather ferociously in front of The Kop.
Ince spent the later part of his career at Middlesbrough and Wolves, before joining Swindon in 2006. Knowing his playing days were coming to an end, he signed a one year Player / Coach contract in August 2006 and started completing his coaching badges. Later that same year, Ince was announced as the new Player / Manager at Macclesfield, following Brian Horton’s dismissal.
The Silkmen were rock bottom of the Football League, having failed to win a game that season so far. Ince didn’t make an immediate impact and The Silkmen faithful had to wait until 5th December to witness their first win. The team then went on a nine match unbeaten run over the Christmas period, adding some much needed points to the tally and earning Macc a memorable Third Round FA Cup trip to Premier League giants Chelsea.
Results unquestionably improved for Ince’s Macclesfield, yet the team found themselves back in the relegation zone for the final game of the season against Notts County. A 1-1 draw was enough to save the club from the drop and the game marked Ince’s final ever appearance (and booking) as a footballer, as he came on for Alan Navarro in the 85th minute.
On 24th June 2007 it was announced that Ince would become the new manager at MK Dons.
Ince went on to have his most successful spell as a manager with The Dons, achieving a sixty percent win rate and winning both the Football League Trophy and promotion to League One in 2008. He then moved on to become the first black British manager in England’s top division with Blackburn, although after having limited success he was sacked after just six months in charge. He has since had another spell with MK Dons, as well as short stints at Notts County and Blackpool
Ince’s time as manager has certainly not been as successful as his playing career for both club and county. However, his time with Macclesfield was crucial in securing our Football League status for another season and for that reason, Ince has earned his rightful place in the history books at the Moss Rose.