Ince is a dead-man walking while Mancini, Houllier, Jol, Sbragia & Beenhakker are ALL favourites for the Sunderland job

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “In the last five minutes Paul was stood on the touchline without a friend in the world. But he has got balls and I’m sure he’ll come out snarling and fighting and is determined to turn it around. When you employ a young manager new to the game you have to back him and give him every resource to pull him through. Otherwise, if you discard him, it is pointless and we lose a potentially very good young manager. He has done well with Macclesfield and MK Dons, so let’s give him a chance.” – Steve Bruce.

Runner-up: “There no point feeling sorry for yourself. You’ve got to keep believing. We felt so great beforehand but we went out and froze a bit. It can’t get any worse now. Everybody expects us to go down and lose every game so there’s no pressure.” – Paul Ince.

Today’s overview: Poor Paul Ince looks dead and buried at Ewood Park.

An almost over-confident Mark Ryan and Bob Cass splash with news that “Paul Ince will be sacked as manager of Blackburn Rovers within the next 48 hours” with Sam Allardyce being primed for the Rovers job. This is supported however by Steve Lillis in the News of the World, who pens that “Ince will be sacked this week after the Blackburn board finally lost patience with their beleaguered boss.”

Commenting on Spurs’ draw with United on Saturday, Kevin Mitchell picks his star players from the game, namely “the heroes here were not the obvious ones: John O’Shea, Corluka, Zokora, Gomes, Dawson, Bentley. Berbatov will return to greater effect one day. But be damned if anyone knows when it will be.” Amy Lawrence made special mention of the performance of Tottenham’s keeper yesterday remarking “a few weeks ago, Gomes was not even expected to save a tame back-pass… [now] Gomes is reformed enough for Redknapp to reassess the need to buy a new number one in the transfer window.” Joe Lovejoy also pick out Gomes, who “at last looked an international goalkeeper,” for praise.

On Liverpool’s draw with Hull, a downbeat Graham Chase simply notes “if and when Liverpool get to the stage where they are looking back to where it all went wrong this season, they can point to afternoons like this, of which there are now all too many examples.”

Ahead of West Ham’s short trip to Chelsea today, Patrick Barclay comments that Zola is beginning to look about as secure as an Icelandic bank in a credit crunch. Gabrielle Marcotti offers some advise to Zola – “Unless he’s badly deluded, Zola knows all too well that he can’t expect Scott Parker or Carlton Cole to conjure up the kind of magic which he generated most weeks… He has to think like a lesser player. Which may be the biggest challenge yet.” While ahead of Newcastle’s match with Portsmouth Bruce Maxwell sheds some light on the Toon’s Sebastien Bassong, who “has gone from cult hero to mainstream Mr Reliable at St James’ Park.”

Rod Liddle injects common sense and humour into the abusive songs debate, sarcastically arguing that any Spurs fans who call themselves “yiddos” should be banned from football – “I think you can still be done for racism if you call yourself by a racist epithet. That should reduce the attendances at White Hart Lane.” Patrick Barclay however offers a more pragmatic approach to the issue calling for the FA to “sit-down, agree a code of conduct with representatives of players and fans’ organisations… and make sure it is properly enforced.”

Piers Morgan, particularly talking about the Eboue situation, chirps up with a defense of the boo-boy culture. “The outrageous cost of going to football these days has made fans increasingly intolerant of gutless, inept, badge-shaming displays. Eboue has been useless all season, but continued to strut around like a prize bull. The boos at the Emirates last weekend hopefully sent him, and all the other mediocre millionaire shirkers, a firm message that enough’s enough.”

In other English football news, John Richardson reports “Roberto Mancini, Gerard Houllier and Martin Jol head Sunderland’s wanted list” for their new manager. However the reports on the Mackems are mixed, with Martin Hardy claiming “Ricky Sbragia has emerged as a top contender to replace Roy Keane at Sunderland. ” while according to Brian McNally, “Leo Beenhakker is set to test his reputation as world football’s most successful trouble-shooter at Sunderland.” And with Manchester United heading to Japan, Jonathan Northcroft notes that “Fifa hope to have done a ‘Dave’ rather than a ‘Consignia’ by renaming what began as the World Club Championship the Club World Cup.”

In the Sunday interviews, Robert Di Matteo tells Amy Lawrence about life at the MK Dons (“If we manage to get into the play-off positions by the end of the season we have achieved a good season”), Jamie Jackson goes to Hoffenhiem to understand how the Village Team are leading the Bundesliga, while Duncan White scoops a sit-down with Damien Comolli, who smugly waxed lyrical about how Spurs’ fortunes have turned-around – “I’m pleased when I see Woodgate doing fantastically, Assou-Ekotto playing well; I thought Zokora was outstanding last week [against West Ham]. And Corluka, Modric, all of them. I’m very pleased. When I made mistakes I knew it quite quickly. I don’t think I made many mistakes.”

The transfer rumours are a dime a dozen. Paul Hetherington claims Everton are closing in on Michael Owen, although this is challenged by Paul Smith who reports “Tottenham are poised to make an audacious £4million bid for Michael Owen.” The Owen-Spurs link is supported by Rob Beasley, adding Spurs are also targetting Joe Cole “after the England star’s contract talks were put on ice by Chelsea.”

Paul Smith then links Emile Heskey and Kevin Davies to Chelsea, which is supported by Rob Beasley who writes “Heskey, Kenwyne Jones and Kevin Davies are the shock names on Luiz Felipe Scolari’s New Year shopping list.” Martin Palmer reports that “Manchester City remain the favourites to sign Portsmouth’s Lassana Diarra [for £18m]… despite reports [that] Juande Ramos is preparing a rival offer for the 23-year-old,” while Duncan White claims that Tottenham’s Roman Pavlyuchenko could be on his way to Real Madrid while Spurs are to make “a joint bid of £16 million for Robert Green and Matthew Upson.”

The Independent’s John Tague reviews the best football books of 2008. “In publishing terms, 2008 was a year with no clear theme… Writers looked further afield – to managers, to tactics, to trivia and off-beat facts to provide inspiration, though the best books of the year belonged to those whose gaze was focused clearly on the past.”