Clayton Ince (born 12 July 1972) is a Trinidadian football goalkeeper who had lengthy spells in the English Football League at Crewe Alexandra and Walsall. He is his country’s most capped goalkeeper with 79 caps for Trinidad and Tobagoto date, his debut coming on 4 April 1997 against Barbados (the game ended in a 1–0 defeat for Trinidad and Tobago).
Ince was born in Arima. Somewhat unusually, he began his footballing career as a defender before converting to become a goalkeeper. As back-up to Michael McComie he played in goal against the then Soviet Union when Trinidad and Tobago qualified for the 1991 FIFA World Youth Championship held in Portugal, although the tournament did not go too well for his team which conceded a total of 12 goals in three group matches.
Ince began his playing career with the Chaguaramas-based club Defence Force, where he quickly established himself as one of the top goalkeepers in the Caribbean. In 1997 he was named as the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation’s Player of the Year, he has also twice been named as the Best Goalkeeper at the bi-annual Caribbean Cup.
In 1999 he went on trial to the Welsh club Wrexham (who play in the English Football League). Although he played well whilst on trial, the club could not afford to offer him a contract. However, in September of the same year he was offered a contract by Crewe Alexandra, which was accepted by Ince.
Ince spent most of his first two seasons at Crewe as understudy to Jason Kearton, the exception being a one-month loan spell at Dundee, during which time he did not actually play. After returning to Crewe in November 2000 he was placed on the transfer list, the only club who actively tried to sign him was Wrexham, whose bid failed due to a lack of funds. He was removed from the transfer list in the summer of 2001 when Kearton left the club, Ince went on to establish himself as Crewe’s first-choice goalkeeper during the 2000–01 season.
After playing in over 200 games for the club, Ince left Crewe in the summer of 2005 following the expiry of his contract. He signed for fellow Championship side Coventry City on a Bosman transfer. He failed to establish himself as a first-choice with the club, serving as understudy to successive loan signings Stephen Bywater and Márton Fülöp.
Following Trinidad and Tobago’s qualification for the 2006 World Cup, Ince made it publicly known that he wanted to leave Coventry on loan to play first-team football. He has stated that without this his place in the Trinidad and Tobago squad for the tournament would be jeopardised; although he was no longer his country’s first choice goalkeeper, the tournament perhaps represented his last realistic chance of appearing at the World Cup.
In July 2006, Ince signed for Walsall following a successful trial spell. Ince received a 10-day ban from FIFA in October 2006 after Walsall withdrew him from the Trinidad & Tobago squad without permission. He became Walsall’s first choice goalkeeper and received the League One player of the Month award in November.
Ince during a game for Walsall
In an interview with Walsall’s official website, Ince stated that he saw the move to Walsall as the springboard to win further international caps, and had indeed regained his spot as Trinidad and Tobago’s first-choice goalkeeper following the retirement of Shaka Hislop and the unavailability of injury-prone Kelvin Jack, who were ahead of him in the pecking order at the World Cup. But following Trinidad & Tobago’s failure to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Ince had since been considering retiring from international football, stating that it wouldn’t be practical to continue playing friendlies and that he wouldn’t realistically be around for the 2014 campaign.
Ince was named in the PFA League Two Team of the Year for the 2006–07 season, and also named Walsall’s Player of the Season for the 2008–09 season. Ince had become a favourite with the Walsall fans for his numerous displays that have saved the team from losing.
On 6 May 2010, Ince had formally announced his retirement from professional football and also stated his intention to return to Trinidad to work with younger goalkeepers, but returned to professional football with Trinidadian outfit Ma Pau SC and even spoke about a possible return to International football with Trinidad and Tobago.
After a successful stint with Ma Pau as Player/Assistant Coach where he won the Toyota Classic and was named Player of the Tournament, Ince signed a two-year deal with Pro League side T&TEC FC as Player/Goalkeeping coach.
Years Team Apps
1991–1996 Fulham SC ?
1996–1998 KFC Memphis ?
1998–1999 Defence Force ?
1999–2005 Crewe Alexandra 123
2000 (loan) Dundee 0
2005–2006 Coventry City 1
2006–2010 Walsall 152
2010–2011 Ma Pau ?
2011–2013 T&TEC ?
1997–2010 Trinidad and Tobago 79