19th – Thomas Ince
It’s matchday and today we have a cracking and highly topical guest post from old skool Ramspace advocate, regular DCFC Podcast ‘pundit’ and known Watford sympathiser, Jon Rogers.
The man popping out from Jon’s window is Tuesday’s hat trick hero, Tom Ince. Take it away Jon.
“Right. We can all relax for a bit now. Tom Ince scored a sublime hat trick in the 4-0 crushing of Bristol City on Tuesday night and a season where he has often cut a frustrated, ineffective figure on the right of Derby’s forward line appeared to have turned a corner. Perhaps.
It’s been a strange season for Ince this time around and very different to what we saw from him last season, after he joined on loan from Hull on the last day of the January transfer window. He showed exactly what he could do on his debut against Bolton in early February, scoring twice, including a superlative free kick, sparking a 4-1 victory and linking up fluidly with his new colleagues. He went on to score 11 goals in 18 games, in a team that, due to McClaren’s hubristic, tactical inflexibility, was slowly sinking into chaos. I’ll never forget that game at The Den in late April where he single handedly dragged us back into the match, scoring from another free kick and driving into the area to win a penalty. He was a class act, make no mistake. We all overlooked the fact that he didn’t appear to use his right foot too much.
I have to say I was surprised we managed to sign Ince permanently in the close season. I’d sort of assumed that he wouldn’t want to play in the Championship again and some lower ranking Premier League club would snap him up. Or perhaps his dad would take him over to Milan to try and get him to sign for Inter again. But no, Mel’s cheque book came out and £4.75 million later Ince was our record signing (albeit only for a few weeks). It was all set up for him to kick on – he obviously felt settled at the iPro, he had a new Head Coach to look after him and millions had been spent on the squad.
It wasn’t to be (at least until Tuesday night). Although Ince started most games, he wasn’t anything like as prolific in front of goal as last season & often struggled to influence play, even in games we won and dominated. That unused right foot became a bit of an issue. From his position on the wide right of midfield, he just didn’t have the option of trying to beat his full back and get to the byline. His only option appeared to be to cut inside & that often led him straight into the massed ranks of the opposition’s defenders. He struggled to be as effective at set pieces too. Fans began to question his contribution. Why was such a talented player so one-footed, so limited? His continued place on the teamsheet was also questioned – was he undroppable? It was clear his confidence was affected and you could see his frustration mounting in games.
So. Along came Tuesday night. Struggling opposition, a change in formation and Ince given a free role at the centre of it. Here was a chance for him to redeem himself. Although it took a while for the team to settle into the new formation, Ince didn’t disappoint. I’ve watched the first goal a few times now and it simply gets better with every viewing. Picking the ball up in a central position with most of the City players in front of him, he proceeded to scythe past three players and finished adroitly past Fielding. With his right foot as well! Probably one of the best goals he’s scored in a Derby shirt, I reckon. The other goals were pretty good too, although you tend to think that he might not get so much space against better defences than City’s. Still, I’ve no doubt that this will be a massive confidence booster for him.
What happens next then? Well, that formation might have worked against City but I can’t see it superseding 4-3-3 as Clement’s formation of choice. I can’t see Martin remaining on the bench for long either (he’ll start sulking for a start..). They can’t play together centrally, surely..?
Anyway. It will be interesting to see how things pan out for Ince over the next few months. Was Tuesday might the turning point it felt like? Time will tell….”