By Tony Leighton
Blackpool's hugely talented winger Thomas Ince is widely expected to follow his Football League Young Player of the Year award with a summer move to a Premier League club - but the England Under-21 international is keeping his focus firmly fixed on the run-in to the end of the npower Championship season.
Now managed by his father Paul - the third boss of the season at Bloomfield Road - Ince junior is well aware of the speculation. But the youngster is as bright off the field as he is on it and takes a measured view as he looks to the future. And it's the near future, he insists, that is his most important concern.
"Every player wants to get to the Premier League," said Ince, 21, who started his career in the top flight with Liverpool and joined the Seasiders two years ago. "You want to play at the top level, but Blackpool is a fantastic club to be at.
"The fans are excellent, the staff are too and the players work so hard for each other. When you look outside the Premier League I think we're one of the most exciting teams to watch. But what it's about right now is keeping our Championship status and trying to get back up there next season."
The current campaign is a contrast to last term, when Blackpool - after suffering relegation from the Premier League - reached the Play-Off Final, Ince scoring his side's single goal at Wembley but ending on the losing side against West Ham United.
A good start to this season - the Seasiders were second in the table in mid-September but are now 17th - was then hampered by several managerial changes and also, perhaps, by a Bloomfield Road playing surface that has received widely reported criticism - from Blackpool staff as well as other critics.
Ince, who has hit 18 goals in 36 Championship appearances, said: "The pitch isn't ideal, especially when you go and play on nice surfaces elsewhere. I'm trying to control it [the ball] with my shins at the minute. But you can't use it as an excuse.
"At the start of the season we were at the top end of the table, now we're battling down at the bottom. But we have good enough players to be at the top and we have to make sure that in our remaining eight games we do enough to stay up."
The Seasiders, four points above the relegation zone, are being led in their survival battle by Ince's dad Paul after the former England midfielder took control of his fifth club as manager in mid-February.
Ince the younger has nothing to prove to his father, but nor does he to anyone else, he believes.
"I was at Blackpool to start with," he said, "and now dad's come along. So I've not had to prove to the other players that I'm here because my dad's brought me in as I'm his son. I'm trying to make my own way.
"I'm just trying to keep my head down and keep working hard. There will be times in my career when I have other managers than my dad, but I'll just aim to keep doing the right things to hopefully get to where I want to be."
Doing the right things has already earned Ince high regard throughout the game, his Young Player of the Year award proving the point. "It's a massive award for me," he said. "Hopefully it'll be the first of many, but it's a great honour."
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