FFT meets Crystal Palace's new signing to discuss father-son nights in, Ryan Giggs and being the world's worst header...
What players did you admire growing up? You mentioned Ryan Giggs, what about him and any other players?
The players I’ve looked up to have always been players in the position I play. A big favourite of mine was Rivaldo. Being a left footer myself, he was a perfect example to me - he had such a great left foot that he didn’t really have to do anything with his right.
Another was Giggs; year in, year out. He plays a lot more centrally now, but when my Dad was playing with him he was an out-and-out winger - one who would get chalk on his boots. It’s all about 4-3-3 systems now but that just shows how Ryan can adapt to anything.
I’ve been fortunate to have him in my life for quite a long time as he’s always been good friends with my Dad. I’ve always based my game on Ryan – he’s the ultimate professional. He can still come on now and create chances that win games for Manchester United, so it shows what a great pro he is and what it takes to be a top player.
Did you ever try to be a hard-hitting tackler like your Dad?
I did, but when I went in for tackles I started crying afterwards. So I though I’d best get myself out wide, out of the way and out of danger!
Do you think that’s helped define you as your own player and stopped the comparisons?
Yeah – it’s never been easy being the son of someone like that, and when I started out there were a lot of people saying ‘you’re only doing this because of who your Dad is’, and that he brought me to Blackpool. But I think over time, from me showing the ability I have, people have stopped that, and it's been a nice feeling for me.
Being left-footed, a winger and a totally different type of player has taken a lot of the pressure off. Some people will always compare me to my Dad, and that’s fine. But the flip side to that is that I have somebody who has set the bar high and it’s set a challenge for me.
Is there anyone in the modern game apart from Giggs who you like to watch, that play in your position?
The main one at the minute is Gareth Bale. But also Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – all of the top players.
There are always things you can learn. I’m a massive football fan, and I’ll watch any league; Spanish, German, Italian, French. With BT Sport as well now there’s so many games to watch. Me and my Dad watch football every night, whatever’s on. So there’s always little bits you can take from players and add to your game.
I’m still young and have a lot of learning to do. You can take bits from different players; Ronaldo’s physique, left foot, right foot, heading; Bale’s strength and the way he glides past players.
What would you say are your strength and weaknesses as a player?
I’ll start with my weaknesses! My right foot. Even when I scored at Wembley (in the 2012 play-off final which Blackpool lost to West Ham) I was shocked it went in with my right, but that shows it’s getting a little bit better. I’ve never been a great header of the ball – probably one of the worst headers of the ball ever, to be fair – I hate it. I close my eyes when I do it, so that’s not great.
It’s hard because you always try and work on your weaknesses, but in a game you always know that you feel stronger on this foot or stronger with that skill. But, like I say, the prime example is Ronaldo. If you can get both feet involved, as a winger that’s massive because you can say ‘I’m going to show you onto my right foot’. But if you can cut inside and put one in the top corner, then that’ll make them think ‘well, what foot do I put him on now?’ So there’s things you can always work on that help you and also make defenders question themselves.
OK, so what are you good at?
Dribbling with the ball, one-on-one. That’s my ideal situation - I like to try and find some space. I’d say scoring goals too, after last year. I never really used to score that many goals until then, but I started becoming a little bit more selfish. Assist wise, though, my rate has always been good. I got the most in the Championship last year. So if I can carry on and better my weaknesses then I’ll be ok.
If you could play alongside anyone, past or present, who would it be?
Probably Diego Maradona. I could just give him the ball and he could score on his own, so I wouldn’t have to run anywhere. Presently, Steven Gerrard. I was lucky to train with him a couple of times when I was at Liverpool. The aura he has about him is just fantastic. As a wide player you like to have someone in midfield who can pick passes out. He’s done that for many years and he’s still doing it now.
What would it be like playing with your Dad at his peak?
I’d have to stay out of his range! I’ve trained with him a couple of times, when he got himself involved. He doesn’t move as fast as he used to, but he’s still got the hard tackling and the mouth’s still going. It’s a strange feeling, but it’s good. He gets the same buzz out of it that I do.
Thomas Ince is wearing Warrior's new Superheat Pro boot. To learn more, visit www.warriorfootball.com or follow @WARRIOR_FTBL on Twitter