Tom Ince: Is This Going To Be His Year?

Tom Ince: Is This Going To Be His Year?

History suggests that a lot of talented youngsters have plunged into the depths of obscurity due to a lack of playing time. Jack Rodwell would make a good case at the moment. When the news emerged that Tom Ince was close to sealing a deal to Inter Milan, a lot of us believed that he was heading in the same direction. Yes, a stint abroad would help him improve as a player, but it would come at the cost of playing time.

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Our fears were put to rest when Ince announced that he had snubbed a move to Inter for Hull. While that might seem foolhardy to some, Ince believes that it’s the right move to grow as a “footballing person”.

“At my age I have to think about football development. I’ve come here to be educated. Anyone can go to a status club and pick up five or six times more money than you could do in the UK, but I’m a footballing person. That’s why this move is right for me.”

In Snodgrass and Ince, Bruce has brought in players who could add to their attacking prowess. Both the players can play in the central attacking role as well as both wings and it remains to be seen where Ince will play under Steve Bruce.

The diminutive youngster who made a name for himself while at the Liverpool academy moved to Blackpool in 2011 in search of playing time. And the move has certainly paid off as he clocked 113 appearances over the last three years for the Seasiders. He had demonstrated good close control as well as pace in the past and these skills will come in handy at the KC stadium, a place that could do with the odd spark of genius from time to time, demonstrated by Ince in scoring with a delightful chip on his Crystal Palace debut.

Ince has built his reputation as a goal scoring winger. He scored 33 goals in 113 games for Blackpool which is an impressive set of numbers for a 22 year old. He likes to cut in from the wings and shoot and has shown tremendous ability with his left foot from distance. On the other hand, he is also very good at crosses and that often leaves defenders guessing his next move.

When he moved to Crystal Palace last January, he was expected to make a big impact after his exploits in the lower division. However, he did not have a great time in the top division despite scoring on his debut. He made just 9 appearances while at the club. In some ways, that could be attributed to the long-ball tactic adopted under Tony Pulis. Sheer brute and physicality aren’t his strongest attributes and he struggled in a team that was not exactly renowned for playing free flowing football.

The move to Hull City is touted to be the right fit as they showed some attacking prowess in the season gone by. The arrival of Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long at the KC stadium last January gave The Tigers the required firepower. They played some attractive football, in the process guaranteeing another season in the top flight with a month left. However, it was their FA Cup performance that saw them reach the final that impressed many and Ince will be hoping that he can create the right buzz by adding to the attacking prowess of the team.

Tom Ince

Tom Ince

While 9 matches in the Premier League aren’t a lot, his experience last season must have made Ince go back to the drawing board of his skills and abilities. For instance, his successful take-on percentage dipped from an impressive 58% in the Championship to a below par 20% in the Premier League. He will find it harder to find the space that could be afforded while in the Championship and this was evident in his recording fewer shots per 90 minutes in the Premier League. He recorded 1.60 shots per 90 minutes in the Premier League when compared to 2.83 shots per 90 minutes in the Championship. However, we would like to mention that this is not at all a bad number and is in most ways a reflection of a tougher league.

Any player requires sufficient playing time to find his footing. He wasn’t the tidiest in the attacking third of the pitch as he recorded a pass completion of just 55% and just 33% of his crosses were accurate. He made 1.4 key passes every 90 minutes and managed to create 1.60 chances per 90 minutes despite playing a total of just 506 minutes. Apart from his solitary goal, he recorded one assist throughout his time at Selhurst Park.

He made a noteworthy performance while at Blackpool for half the season, as he scored 7 goals as well recorded 6 assists in 23 appearances for the club before moving to Crystal Palace in January.

Tom Ince

Tom Ince

One of the major deficiencies in Ince’s game has been his defensive abilities. He is not very keen on making tackles and made less than 2 tackles at Blackpool as well Crystal Palace last season, coming out on top in only 40% of those. He didn’t make many interceptions, recording less than 1 per 90 minutes and recorded no blocks. He lost close to 80% of his aerial duels but was very combative on the ground as he won more than 60% of them.

Hull City is a club that’s all but certainly going to be embroiled in another relegation battle, a battle often won as much on grit and determination as on skill. Ince will be required to improve his defensive skills and make a greater contribution at the back end of the pitch.

The primary factor in Ince’s choice of club has been availability of playing time. With Europa League not very far away for the club, there is no dearth of opportunities for the talented youngster. An exposure at the continental level would be a definite learning experience for him. The youngster has shown an ability to deliver with his performances in the Championship. Being his first full season, we expect Ince to blossom under the guidance of Steve Bruce with more and more playing time.

He has a sharp left foot, has shown creative spark and can find the back of the net. He needs to adapt to the pace and physicality of the Premier League as well as add defensive attributes to his game. With some tweaking to the skill set at hand, Ince will be hoping to build on the learning at Selhurst Park and establish himself in a Hull side that’s on an exciting path under Steve Bruce.