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IAIN DOWIE… ON TARGET
Whether it was working with missiles at G.E. Aircraft or playing up front for West Ham United amongst others, Iain Dowie always knew where the target was. One of the country’s most up and coming young managers, now has his sights set on a 2nd promotion to the Premiership in 3 years. Sue McCann has been speaking to the Palace Boss.
The Championship division this season appears to be more competitive than ever; is this tougher than your first stint in it, is it a reflection on the calibre of managers involved or is there a very good standard of player around at the moment particularly in the top half of the table?
“I think there are some very, very good teams in the Championship. I’m not sure it’s tougher than it was before because we were fourth from bottom when I first came in. I just think there’s some good managers in there. There’s been some stand alone performances; Steve Coppell, what he’s done at Reading, the players he’s brought in and the way he plays as well. They’ve had a fantastic season and done what Sunderland did last year, but probably even better. There is an ultra competitive level in this league.”
Despite being founder members of the Premiership, Crystal Palace have been the ultimate ‘yo yo’ club since the Premiership’s formation. Should you achieve promotion what steps must Palace take differently to be better equipped to stay up?
“I think in this modern day the infrastructure is very, very key. I think you need to have your ground developed to a certain level and the training ground to a very high level and I think they’re things that you have to do and I think the Chairman is aware of that, and is trying to prepare accordingly. Outside of that you have to get a side that’s got assets, that’s got pace, that’s difficult to beat with good spirit amongst the team, technically be very prepared. Probably the difference for me was the endurance and the ability for players in the Premier League to run at high intensity for a lot longer than they would, or a lot more often, than they would in the Championship. There may be more ground covered but that’s with endurance, the ability like with Thierry Henry to go ‘bang’ from nought to whatever it is in seconds, that’s what you’ve got to be capable of coping with and you also need to be able to keep possession. So there’s 7 or 8 pieces of the jigsaw you have to do better; you have to invest properly, bring the right character of personnel in. I just think it does really help; you look at Wigan or West Ham this year; the infrastructure, West Ham has very, very good crowd levels. Wigan has a lovely set-up but to be fair Paul has invested very, very well in pace and experience. I think the assembly of your squad has to be right.”
Your Chairman Simon Jordan had three managers in quick succession before appointing you, why does your relationship with him seemingly work so well?
“You cannot at anytime question the money that he’s spent. I think in the end we get on well together because it’s an open relationship, in that he knows what sort of person I am and I know what sort of person he is. So I think in the essence we’re both straight talkers. Simon, I think respects that; Simon runs the business; I run the football side that’s the way it is. We communicate through the proper channels all the time. Simon is a very passionate man; he’s a fan of the club so he wants what’s best for the club for sure. I think for me when you run a football club nowadays you’ve got to have a long term plan. I don’t believe in the word short term really at football clubs, I think you’ve to have a long term plan but also you have to spend it like it’s your own money, I think that’s very important. The business side is becoming more and more important; you cannot make decisions that impact on the business without understanding how it impacts on the other areas of the business. An all round business approach is something you need too.”
Simon’s determination and resolve, obviously in conjunction with you, in making sure Andy Johnson did stay at the club is a rarity today, people didn’t believe that would happen. Perhaps football needs more Chairmen like him in that respect?
“He’s very single minded. We always talked about it and he said ‘what’s your thought on it? Andy’s a stand alone player that you definitely want to keep’ so yes absolutely, he’s aware of that. Having said that, it was a scenario where Andy’s value was never going to diminish either. It’s an issue that will no doubt rear its ugly head if we’re not fortunate to go up this year, but that’s something we will deal with. Having said that Simon has rewarded Andy very well and I think Andy’s starting to come into the form we all know about, he certainly did that on Monday night.”
What are your hopes for Andy in terms of the World Cup…? Simon did say at the time that Sven had alluded to the fact that it didn’t matter of he was playing in the Championship, do you think he’s got a chance of making that squad?
“Oh yeah definitely. I think when you look at something like 80 goals in 130 or 140 games there aren’t too many better records than that around. He’s got a chance; I think what he’s got to do between now and the next 7 or 8 weeks is go on a good run. He’s an international type player who gives international defenders problems, he craves the goals, he works his socks off and that for me is a huge plus. I think you shouldn’t underestimate what he brings to a team.”
I know how determined you were to be a manager before you went into it and how well you prepared and thought it through; has it met with expectations, is it better, are there aspects that you’ve found very surprising?
“I think however you prepare it’s always surprising. What I probably don’t do well is, and I’ve spoken to managers more senior to me who have the ability to be able to switch off, I don’t have that necessity, I don’t think I need to do that. It is a fantastic job; I think the ability to be able to shape people’s futures is important. I think the other thing that is fantastic is can you develop talent and get 11 (well it’s now 22 players) playing in a tight knit unit, the man management issues are fascinating and in modern football that’s a huge part of the role. The tactical side is something that I have always loved and always felt was something I really enjoyed; looking at the videos, looking at oppositions, the way we play, slight little conundrums you’ve got to sort, but also putting out things that can really help your team win, watching Johnson, Watson, Barlow becoming internationals. I think they’re the things that really make football rewarding. The biggest reward for me as a manager is seeing people fulfil their potential. You’ve got to have an altruistic element as a manager, I really do believe that. You always want to improve each day and that’s sometimes very hard to do, but that for me is a benchmark of what I’m trying to do. I try and review myself every week and try and see what I could have done better the week before.”
Your brother Bob is your Director of Football, Sir Alex Ferguson’s brother has in important role in United’s coaching/scouting set-up. How much of a benefit is it to have somebody that knows you inside out and to have that absolute trust and camaraderie?
“ Bob has always been involved with me, early on at QPR when Gerry (Francis) was there and I was working there, Bob was involved and went to watch games for us and helped us out. We had a Chief Scout but Bob sort of took that role over, scouting the opposition. We formatted a report that we still use now, though it’s changed and is more computerised now. It allows us to see how we felt we could win and lose games in terms of strengths and weaknesses the opposition have, what sort of game plan would hurt them, what sort of areas. It became a very technical and tactical document. So that’s carried on, he’s now got a much more broad ranging role and to be fair it was really Simon’s (Jordan) appointment. He knew what Bob’s role was and when he came here he continued it and it’s been me, him and John Harpin. John’s been a mentor/coach for me for a number of years. Simon went to Bob and he knew he could cope with being Director of Football in terms of contracts; he was a negotiator at G.E. Aircraft in terms of dealing with multi billion dollar deals. He’s found it different but he’s also found it very stimulating. The one thing he has got is a very good work ethic so he’s enjoying it. The trust element is fantastic; I’d trust him with my life so from my point of view that’s something that’s very pleasing.”