The left-winger has impressed since moving from Liverpool and has ambitions of playing for England like his father, Paul
The first thing you notice is the physical resemblance. It is in the eyes. It is in the natural confidence with which he carries himself, the sense of someone entirely comfortable in his own skin. It stands out even more when it is football chat that fills the room and it is very easy, even before you consider the famous surname, to recognise the family genes.
But it is when you see Thomas Ince play that it becomes clear that, within the boundaries of a football pitch, father and son are poles apart in terms of style. Paul Ince was the footballer Sir Alex Ferguson reckoned could "climb Mount Everest in his slippers". His son would probably try to slalom it. "Tricky" is the word he uses – an old-fashioned winger, running with the ball, jinking left and right. "I've always styled myself on Ryan Giggs," he says. "I don't tackle as much as my dad, I play out wide, I'm left-footed, we're totally different types of player."
A month away from turning 20, he is developing a reputation as one of the most exciting players outside the Premier League because of his performances since leaving Liverpool in the summer to join Blackpool. Ince Jr ticks the boxes when it comes to the kind of talented, attacking player that symbolises Ian Holloway's team and it is a measure of the teenager's potential that Liverpool did not want to let him go, offering him a four-year contract to keep him at Anfield.
"A lot of players would be scared about leaving a club like Liverpool," he says. "It would have been very easy to stay but I just couldn't get away from the thought that I was 19 and wanted to get out and play regular football. I didn't want to get to 21 and still be playing reserve-team football. I was impatient to be playing and Ian Holloway was on the phone telling me I could be an important part of his team."
What has happened since is the flowering of an ambition that dates back to the early parts of his childhood. Thomas was three and a half when his father joined Internazionale from Manchester United and the experience lasted only two years but he remembers it with surprising clarity. "I went to an all-Italian school, I spoke the language fluently and we lived by Lake Como. We'd go to every match at San Siro to watch my dad and, even then, I knew it was something special. These were my first memories of childhood really."
At six he was in the stands with his mother, Claire, at the Geoffroy-Guichard stadium in St-Etienne when England went out of the 1998 World Cup on penalties to Argentina. "Crying my eyes out," he remembers of the moment when his father missed one of England's attempts. He was watching, too, when the bandaged Ince helped England reach the tournament on that night in Italy when he lost two pints of blood and demonstrated all the competitive instincts that won him 53 international caps.
In fact, the young Ince was there whenever school hours allowed. "I never wanted to miss watching him play," he says. "Even at that age I already knew I wanted to be a footballer. I watched my dad and I just knew that was where I wanted to get in my life too."
The sporting genes extend to his younger brother, Daniel, a potential golf star of the future, playing off a handicap of five at the age of 14. Their sister, Reah, is already an accomplished horse rider, aged 10. For Thomas, however, it was always football. "My mum and dad talk about me running round the house in Italy with my ball, smashing the ornaments, driving them mad. Every night I'd go to sleep with two footballs in my bed, one under each arm. I couldn't sleep otherwise."
This is his first major newspaper interview and, already, he talks like a seasoned pro. The lack of nerves is a legacy of a lifetime in close proximity to the football world. "I've been lucky in a lot of ways. My dad had a wonderful career and has always been there to give me advice. I used to go to watch Liverpool train and see Jamie Redknapp, Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, legends of the game. Then, when I had joined the club I had the opportunity to train with the likes of Fernando Torres and Xabi Alonso."
Later he talks appreciatively of the help Jamie Carragher used to offer Liverpool's younger players. Steven Gerrard, who once cleaned Paul Ince's boots, was "an inspiration, he has such an aura around him". Giggs, his idol, lived with the Inces for six months when they were Manchester United team-mates. "Can you imagine that?" he says, for the first time looking a little bit starry-eyed. "Waking up every day and Ryan Giggs is there."
It was Tranmere Rovers who were first alerted to the wiry kid with the lovely balance and ability to run past players. "When we came back from Italy we were living in Liverpool and I was playing in the junior leagues. It just got to the stage where it was coming so easily it clicked that: 'You know what, I'm not bad at this game, I'm really not bad at all.'"
Liverpool took him on when he was 12 but, with a head start when it came to understanding the game, he was quickly promoted to play in the year above. His professional debut came six years later, as a substitute, in a Carling Cup tie against Northampton Town in September last year. It didn't end well, with Roy Hodgson's side losing on penalties, but Ince had his taste of first-team football. He wanted more and it was offered via a familiar route when his dad, then managing Notts County in League One, took him on loan.
"It was strange at the start for both of us. I remember him asking me: 'Are you going to call me dad or gaffer?' We both knew that people would tag me as 'the manager's son', so there was pressure on me straight away. But when I started training with the other lads I think they realised I wasn't there just because of my dad. And I probably got it worse than anyone if we had played badly."
As he grew up there were times when the Ince name could be held against him. "The usual stuff: people would realise who you were and suddenly it was: 'You're only here because of your dad'. All you can do is laugh it off and, if you play well on the pitch, it silences everyone. I know it will be that way for a while and people might look at me as 'Paul Ince's son'. But I'd rather make a name for myself and in time, if I'm playing well, that will change."
Thomas, left, who with his father is represented by NVA Entertainment Group, has quickly become a popular player at Bloomfield Road – a classic Holloway signing, fitting seamlessly into a team where the manager operates by the philosophy that failing to entertain the public is a sin. "I can see why they got to the Premier League a couple of seasons ago. There is this incredible team spirit and the manager is so good when it comes to instilling everyone with confidence. He's just got this great knack of making you feel like the player you want to be."
English football has hardly been top-heavy with talented, homegrown left-wingers. Ince has represented England at Under-19 level and cannot be far away from an Under-21 call-up. Beyond that he hopes to follow his father into the seniors. "I'm still only 19, so I've got a lot of things to do before I can think of that properly, but I've watched my dad playing for England and that's where I want to be one day. In fact, I've told him I want to get to where he did and even better. That's my plan. He says it will never happen but you've got to have dreams, haven't you?"