Papa or Gaffer? Paul Ince’s Role Conflict

Paul Ince is an illustrious former footballer and the recently appointed manager of Blackpool FC. He is also father to the newly crowned Championship Young Player of the Year Tom Ince; an exciting, goal-scoring player tipped for great things. This is all rosy and wonderful for the Inces except that the picture is complicated by one thing: Tom plays for Blackpool. So Dad Ince is now Son Ince’s coach; his manager; his boss. The job of parent differs greatly to the job of football manager and the two aren’t necessarily compatible. Paul Ince must manage this potential “role-conflict” if he is to win at work and be happy at home. It’s a tough challenge.

Role-Conflict Explained

Psychologists define role-conflict as when the expectations associated with two different contexts interfere with each other. We experience role-conflict when to succeed in one role we must carry out tasks that make it very difficult for us to succeed in our other role – and vice versa. The question then is can Paul Ince fulfil his responsibilities as a father at the same time as fulfilling his duties as a manager?

Role-Conflict in Action: Tom’s Future

One of the biggest issues on the Blackpool FC agenda this summer will be the future of their starlet Tom Ince. Will he be sold to the many baying Premiership outfits or will he remain for another year? It is an issue we would expect the club manager to be integrally involved in. This presents a prime situation for Paul Ince to suffer the strains of role-conflict.

With his manager’s hat on we must expect Paul Ince to do everything within his power to keep his son at Blackpool. A manager always wants his best players and Tom is Paul’s best player. With his father’s hat on though, Paul Ince might be more open to his son moving away from Blackpool. We all want to see our children get on in life, to see them better themselves, get promoted, earn more money. Tom’s best chance of this is a move to the Premier League, so as a caring father this is the advice Paul should give his son isn’t it?

Alternatively, should Tom insist on leaving, we would expect “Manager Paul” to court the highest bidder, whoever that may be. If Chelsea or City offers say £15million then that is the offer he should accept. “Papa Paul” might see it differently though and as can be seen from a recent interview it seems he does. Papa Paul wants his son to progress and sitting on the bench for most of the season, as is very likely at a City or Chelsea, won’t allow such progress. Instead, in the role of Dad, Paul Ince might be more inclined to recommend a move to a team where Tom will play regularly and thus develop his game; but this might not yield the big transfer fee he needs. This is role-conflict in action; you feel damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Work-Family Stress    

So what’s the fallout? Well this isn’t a particularly nice scenario for Paul Ince to be in. Role conflict, like any form of conflict, can be a great source of stress. It is associated with feelings of worry, sleeplessness and distractibility; none of which is particularly conducive to doing anything productive. There will be stresses at home (what is Mrs Ince’s view?) and stresses at work (how will fans react to whatever decision is made on Tom?). This is just the tip of the iceberg too, how has Paul dealt with his son’s, and by default his team’s, recent goal drought? Once again, a father might act very differently to a coach in this situation. It is, in so many ways, an untenable situation.

Blood Thicker Than Water

The world of applied psychology has many suggestions to offer when it comes to resolving role conflict. “Role clarity”, knowing exactly what is expected of each of your roles and by whom, is a good starting point. Perhaps Paul Ince could sit down with his son and explain how his role as a manager must change their relationship in the short-term. Alternatively, Paul may honestly approach his chairman and ask that in this exceptional circumstance he would prefer not to be involved in the transfer of his son. As with many psychological strategies, as helpful as they may be, their usefulness can be stunted by the realities of life; like a father’s love for his son. My feeling is that blood is thicker than water and as much as Paul Ince might fight it, his first concern will always be his son. He will do his best by him, move him to another team and then get on with his new manager’s role – conflict free.  

Practical Implications

  • Coaches should constantly review their many roles and be sensitive to potential conflicts
  • Where role-conflict occurs, taking time to clearly define roles and establish role clarity is an important strategy
  • Withdrawing from one role may be the only viable option in some situations 

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