I posed in Man United shirt but failed a medical and went back to fans caning me


Paul Ince barely cost Manchester United seven figures – but some West Ham fans have never forgotten the controversial transfer.

The year is 1989 and the Hammers have just been relegated from the old First Division.

Ince spent seven years at West Ham after joining as a teenager

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Ince spent seven years at West Ham after joining as a teenagerCredit: Action Images

Veteran manager John Lyall was sacked after 15 years, but a young Ince made a name for himself – and links to top-flight clubs were inevitable.

A brief glance at Leicester’s summer business will tell you that this is nothing out of the ordinary.

But what should have been a straightforward transfer quickly went horribly wrong.

Looking back when he joined talkSPORT, England legend Ince said: “When I look at the situation… I go back to the great John Lyall. He was a father figure to me.

“Pre-season came and John Lyall lost his job. We couldn’t believe it. We were absolutely devastated. Me, Tony Cottee, Frank McAvennie, Alan Devenshire – all those top players.

“I was in the process of agreeing a contract with John Lyall and West Ham for the next three or four years.

“I was living in a rough area where my car kept getting cut. It kept getting sliced up because it was outside a pub called the Pipers’ Arms.

“Lou Macari came in – and the contract wasn’t there. It was £1,000-a-week, and it was decided that, at my age, that wasn’t something I should be getting.

Ince caught the eye at West Ham before their relegation to the Second Division

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Ince caught the eye at West Ham before their relegation to the Second DivisionCredit: Getty

“That was the start.”

Enter Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson was building something special at Old Trafford and wanted Ince at the heart of his midfield.

The young Englishman was keen – but one administrative error saw things turn toxic very quickly.

Under the impression that the deal was done, Ince posed in a Man United shirt before his summer holiday, so the image would be available to the press before his return.

Little did he know that the Daily Star had uploaded the image to their media library – and sister newspaper the Daily Express stumbled upon it by chance.

Ince continued: “I did that in good faith, thinking once the deal was done, it could go in the papers. It was in one of the media libraries when the papers were searching for me in a West Ham shirt!

“At that age, you are governed by your agent. My agent told me the deal would go through before I got back – so you do it.

“I regret the consequences of it. When I came back to West Ham, we played Swindon away. Half the fans were singing they wanted me to stay, half were singing ‘get rid’.

An image of Ince in a Man United shirt sent Hammers fans into meltdown

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An image of Ince in a Man United shirt sent Hammers fans into meltdownCredit: Getty

“It made me wonder whether I wanted to stay. Then it got hostile and my wife was getting pelters in the stands. I decided to move on. There comes a point when enough is enough.

“I was training and Ronnie Boyce said there was someone waiting for me at the hotel. It was like the headmaster wanting to see you at school.

“Boyce drives me to the hotel and Sir Alex Ferguson is sat there. He was great. As a 19-year-old, cocky, West Ham kid – I didn’t know the greatness of the man until I played with him.

“But he was sat there, legs crossed, with a saucer, a spoon on the side… I thought, ‘Who’s this cowboy?'”

Despite the two worlds colliding, it was a productive meeting, and Ince’s move to Man United looked like a formality.

That was until he failed the medical.

“That made it ten-times worse,” Ince added. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to go back to West Ham now’.

“I was in tears, my wife was in tears. We agreed a six-year deal and I failed the medical.

Ince eventually got his Man United move and became one of the club's greatest-ever midfielders

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Ince eventually got his Man United move and became one of the club’s greatest-ever midfieldersCredit: Getty – Contributor

“I had to sit in the stands at West Ham and I kept getting caned.

“Then I got a phone call from Sir Alex Ferguson and he said, ‘We don’t care if you’ve got a little problem with your groins. We’re making this happen’.

“He kept his word.”

Ince won seven major trophies at Man United, including two Premier League titles, and ended his playing career with 52 England caps.

But the man from Ilford, east London, still regrets the tainted legacy at his boyhood club.

“I’m a West Ham boy, I grew up there and they’re my first team,” he said.

“It grates me that fans still remember it. It was 25 years ago [sic]. You’ve got to move on.”





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