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Paul Ince Throws Players Under The Bus One Last Time

The manager’s full thoughts after an Easter Monday defeat to Preston, his final one as Reading boss before being dismissed on Tuesday morning.

Preston North End v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

It’s been a tough Easter weekend, with the Royals two points adrift from safety after a last-minute Preston North End winner gave the home side all three points.

Preston went ahead in the 56th minute through Thomas Cannon but Reading were given a lifeline after Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan headed us level with just seven minutes to go. Preston scored a last-gasp winner through Brad Potts to secure three points and plunge Reading into misery.

Manager Paul Ince, who was sacked the following morning, felt that it was a tough one to take. He spoke to the official club website and Reading Chronicle after the game.

Ince on the defeat

“It’s a tough one to take. We didn’t really lay a glove on them in the first half, we looked apprehensive, nervous at times, but went in at half-time, pretty comfortable.

“Our decision-making was poor, there was a lack of quality at times. And in the second half, we made the mistake of getting too tight and we’re 1-0 down.

“We hung in there, Joe made some important saves that kept us in the game – and once we’d got through that period, we score an equaliser with Kelvin scoring his first league goal.

“And at that stage you’re thinking we might be able to get the winner. So to lose it in injury time, and it’s a lesson we haven’t learned.

“It happened away at Sunderland and again at Cardiff – whether it’s lack of quality, or lack of concentration, we’ve lost too many points from goals conceded in the last minute.

“And that is the period in the game when you have to concentrate the hardest, make sure you don’t lose your focus. We didn’t do that.

“We slash at the ball to concede the corner, then we don’t deal with the first header, we don’t deal with the second header and we’ve lost a game we could have taken a point from.

“I think it comes down to mental toughness. When you’re in the situation that we’re in, when it comes to those crucial moments at the end of games, we’ve got to use our experience, we can’t panic, we’ve got to see out games.

“We’ve gone from a side sitting safe in the Championship to a team fighting for survival in the bottom three. That mindset has changed so quickly. And to lose a game like today’s in the last minute is demoralising.

“But we can’t be full of self-pity, we’ve got to try to keep this team in the league. And we’ve got so much fight in there.

“We’re out on our feet again today. And we’ve got Burnley on Saturday. But we’ve got to keep fighting. And we’ve got to pick up points.”

Ince on the losing goal

“A lack of concentration, wasn’t it. It’s not the first time it’s happened - Sunderland and Preston at our place. When you get back into the game as we did, you’ve got to learn to see out games and we didn’t do that. Whether it’s a lack of quality, lack of mental toughness, lack of focus and concentration.

“It’s a domino effect. We’ve got the ball in midfield and try and drive up the park instead of passing out, then we go back to the goalkeeper and play down the right-hand side. The ball comes in, we panic, slice at it and it goes for a corner. We don’t win the first header or the second header.

“You come away thinking we’d done so well to get back into the game, it’s great that Kelvin got his equaliser as a young kid. You’ve got to learn how to hold onto these games, and we lack that quality and mental toughness to do it.

Ince on character of players

“When you go back to the games, Sunderland and Cardiff, where we’ve lost in last minutes - we haven’t got the character to see out games and take a point. We always seem to make silly mistakes or silly decisions.

“If I had been playing in this team, with some of the things you do, I’d be right on you because you won’t get away with it. You seem to let people get away with it and nobody says a word to them. Leadership qualities and character. If people are making bad decisions, get onto them. Don’t just say it’s okay to do that, because it’s not okay.

“The only voice you could hear on the pitch was Dannsy. We all make mistakes, me more than most, but some of the decision-making you think it can’t always come from me, it’s got to come from the players on the pitch. They’re costing us time and again.”

Ince on individual mistakes

“I’m not emotional, I’m just really frustrated. We keep kicking ourselves in the foot all the time. The boys are fighting for their lives, but I’m so frustrated because you’re 1-1 and at the stage where we need to pick up points. We can’t afford to give away points cheaply.

“Joe kept us in the game and made some wonderful saves, but once you see that it should give you a response. You get the equaliser and everyone’s happy and you think right boys let’s go and get the second or take a point.

“To do it like that really frustrates me because we don’t deserve it. We did ride our luck, but if you get that luck and that goal and you think see it out now. It’s a combination of mistakes and there’s not much you can do about it as a manager - if people are going to make those mistakes there isn’t much you can do about it.

“It frustrates me because once we got back to 1-1 and Femi Azeez has a chance, it baffles me some of the decisions we make.”

Ince on Femi Azeez impact

“You have to be careful because when you play people like Femi, if you see the games where he has come on and made an impact, it’s a little bit open and we leave spaces. When you play Femi, if you’re going to play a 4-2-3-1, but Lucas is playing well and so is AC.

“We need goals. It’s hard to put Femi into that formation. When he came on, he looked lively and good, but it’s both sides of the coin. Up and down, defending. As a young lad, it’s something he needs to improve on. As far as an attacking threat, he can he really good for us.”

Ince on relegation

“The threat of relegation was always going to be there, as soon as the points were deducted. If we were sitting here on 47 points, like we should have been, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I’ve always said that we were sitting pretty, and now we’re not.

“The change in mentality from we need one more win to now two to stay up. The threat of relegation has always been there, as long as the six points were hanging over our heads. It’s something we’ve had to deal with in such a small amount of time - the timing’s diabolical.

“We can’t worry about relegation; we have to worry about trying to perform. Burnley will be a tough one, as they all will be. We’re still in it. Every game is going to be a tough one.”

Ince on future

“If you bring someone else in, I’m not sure what’s going to change. It’s not like the lads aren’t fighting or playing for me, you can see that. I’ve got no qualms about that [my future].

“We’re in this position that we’ve been put into, and you need to think about that and how unfair it is to me and the players. We were sitting on 47 points. Look at the injuries, it’s going to be tough.

“You could put Pep in here, or Klopp, it would be no different. We’ve got eight first-team players out. It’s a bit unfair to ask that question and I’m not sure where you’re trying to go with it, but at the end of the day with three weeks left I don’t think I’m important in this. The players are important, and trying to lift them.”