The door has finally closed on the Paul Ince era. Reading dismissed him as first-team manager on Tuesday morning, ending a 416-day spell in the dugout since replacing Veljko Paunovic last February. He’s been replaced on an interim basis by Noel Hunt.
So, to wrap up the Ince era properly, we’re asking you to grade the job he did as manager one final time. The last time we asked you to do so was at the beginning of March, just after a 3-1 win over Blackpool which left Reading in 14th - the Royals’ last victory. At that point, Ince earned an average score of 3.12/5.
It’s all been downhill for Reading since the start of March. Of the Royals’ eight games, five have ended in defeat, with the only points picked up coming from a three-match run of 1-1 draws either side of the latest international break. As for those losses, they’ve almost entirely been 1-0 home defeats (Sheffield United and Millwall) or 2-1 away defeats (Blackburn Rovers, Preston North End). However, the one exception was a real mess: Reading being battered 5-0 at the Riverside.
Performances and tactics didn’t give much more cause for optimism, with Reading all too often looking aimless in possession and ineffective out of it. There was the odd exception - going to a back four sometimes yielded better results and Reading scored good goals against Blackburn and Birmingham City - but I’m grasping at straws here.
To add insult to injury, Ince wasn’t any better in his comms. Whether it was blaming referees regardless of his team’s shortcomings (you can see a Twitter thread of that here), not taking personal responsibility for those shortcomings, throwing his players under the bus, laughing in a post-Preston interview or claiming Pep Guardiola wouldn’t do any better than him, Ince increasingly pissed off vast swathes of the fanbase. He came across all too often as arrogant and out of touch.
Calum Egan and Thomas Brooke both did really good jobs summing up many of the criticisms and failings of the Ince era in opinion pieces. Calum’s take came after the 1-0 defeat to Millwall, while Thomas’ piece went out just before the Preston loss. On the other side of the argument, Wimb offered a defence of Ince shortly after the defeat at Middlesbrough.
Still, there’s a valid question to be asked over how much better Reading should have been doing this season. For all the criticisms levelled at Ince, there were certainly mitigating factors outside his control: the points deduction, injuries and difficulty building a squad last summer.
So how does it all balance out in your opinion? We’d like you to grade the job he was doing at the time of his dismissal in the poll below, with one as the lowest, five as the highest. You should be able to see the poll, but if it doesn’t display on your device, try this link here.