Ince confident Blackpool can push for promotion

BLACKPOOL manager Paul Ince believes his side can be in the Sky Bet Championship ­promotion mix despite a ­chronic shortage of players.

The Seasiders may struggle to name a full squad for today’s opening match against Doncaster and Ince hopes to bring in seven new signings.

Ince claims he and assistant Alex Rae saved the club from ­relegation when they joined in February, but he has set his sights higher this time.

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The former England midfielder said: “We made our mark straight away by keeping the team up. The team was going down, they were in freefall.

“It’s hard to make your mark when you’ve only got 12 or 13 senior players. It’s going to be a tough season. We’ve just got to make sure we’re competitive, and make sure, if we can, that we try to get into that sixth place, but there are probably ten clubs who all want to get into sixth place.”

While Ince has been frustrated at a lack of signings, crucially the club have held on to his son Tom after the winger rejected a move to Premier League newcomers Cardiff. Ince said: “He thinks it was the right decision, I think it was the right decision for him at this moment.”

The Championship season kicks off at lunchtime today when Burnley host Bolton in one of six specially-arranged fixtures marking the 125th anniversary of the Football League.

Burnley were dealt a blow on the eve of the match when star striker Charlie Austin ­departed for QPR, and manager Sean Dyche wants his other forwards to step up. Dyche said: “It’s a great opening for someone to say, ‘I am ready and I’m going to deliver’.”

Relegated trio QPR, Reading and Wigan begin life back in the Championship, with Rangers hosting Sheffield Wednesday, Reading playing Ipswich and FA Cup winners Wigan – now managed by Owen Coyle – travelling to Barnsley. Doncaster, Yeovil and Bournemouth are the three newcomers from League One. Bournemouth host Charlton while Yeovil travel to Millwall, now managed by former St Johnstone boss Steve Lomas.

Birmingham will remember former striker Christian Benitez, who died this week, with a minute’s silence before their home match against Watford. Blues fans also plan to honour the Ecuadorian with applause in the 11th minute, the number of the shirt he wore while at 
Birmingham. Oscar Garcia takes charge of Brighton for the first time against Leeds while today’s other games see Leicester travel to Middlesbrough, Nottingham Forest host Huddersfield before Derby play Blackburn tomorrow.

Meanwhile, League One kicked off last night with David Weir getting his managerial career off to a winning start as his Sheffield United side claimed a 2-1 victory over Notts County at Bramall Lane. Kevin McDonald put the hosts in front, before Enoch Showumni levelled with a low volley but Harry Maguire’s header won it for Weir’s side.