United In Excellence
Ultimate Seal Of Approval For Promotion-Winning Duo
Paul Ince and Denis Irwin were good at Wolves. Very good. But just how outstanding were they in their prime and what were they like off the field?
We are indebted to no less an authority than Roy Keane for giving us the low-down during one of his many appearances in the Sky Sports studio on two players he knew well as team-mates.
It is 20 years this summer since the duo arrived at Molineux and Wolves supporters will no doubt have been pleased by their selection in what Keane regarded as his Old Trafford dream team from his time there.
Irwin gets one of the iron man midfielder’s votes in defence – and a whole heap of praise.
Asked who his favourite United left-back was, Keane said: “Denis Irwin every day of the week. I roomed with him at United and with Ireland and he could play at right-back as well, as he is right-footed.
“Brilliant trainer, very rarely got injured, turned up for all the big matches, good at set-pieces….if he was playing now with the talk of the modern full-back, Denis would be up there with the best.”
Keane spoke fondly of the ‘wonderful craic’ he had both with the defender who gave Wolves two excellent years of service at the end of his career and with the man known as The Guv’nor.
Ince may have played only 281 United games compared with Irwin’s 529 but was described by their mutual team-mate on screen as ‘another very, very good player.’
“Maybe he tarnished his United reputation by going to Liverpool and there was a lot of talk about him being The Guv’nor and hold that against him,” Keane added. “But that was just banter.
“He was a really good team-mate and when I first went there, he was brilliant in midfield and very good to have next to you.
“He could head it, he could defend, he could get you a goal. You would look at the guy next to you before big matches and ask yourself if you were happy to have him in the trenches with you and you would have Incey all day long.
“I enjoyed his company. He was a brilliant fella to have some craic with in the dressing room, a really good lad.”
Even in his mid-30s, Ince was good enough to have played 40 League and play-off games in Wolves’ 2002-03 promotion-winning season and follow up with more than 30 appearances in the top flight.
Such was his liking for life at Molineux that he then stayed here for another two years back in the second grade, the last 18 months or so of that spell under Glenn Hoddle – a man Keane said he had admired in his impressionable younger years ‘for his brilliant skill.’
Irwin was 37 when his Wolves contract ended in the summer of 2003 and he called time there and then on his highly distinguished playing career.