Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Iain Dowie wins the sack race

Iain Dowie wins the sack race.
Charlton Athletic manager Iain Dowie has won the dubious award of being the first coach of the Premiership season to lose his job.

The former Northern Ireland international striker was shown the door at the Valley after only 12 league and 3 League Cup games, a poignant contrast to the previous incumbent Alan Curbishley's 15 years in charge of the Addicks.

Dowie's departure seems premature, particularly after he had led Crystal Palace to the semi-final of last season's Championship play-offs, but Charlton find themselves bottom of the Premiership with only two wins and more importantly a £10 million summer spree that seems to have backfired.

Charlton chairman had spoken at Alan Curbishley's departure of his desire for a British coach, "because we are a British club" and Dowie was approached, along with Peter Taylor, Billy Davies and Phil Parkinson.

But the former Southampton and West Ham forward failed to inspire his team to victories, despite a track record as a motivator at Crystal Palace. Dowie introduced new methods to his players, including playing cricket, swimming and self-help manuals but unlike another young British manager beloved of innovative ideas, Watford's Aidy Boothroyd, Dowie's new order was not matched by results on the pitch.

The whispers have been that not all the Charlton players were enamoured of Dowie's methods, yet US international Cory Gibbs, who has yet to debut for the Addicks following a knee injury, told me otherwise only a week ago.

"Iain has been great," he said. "He looks into the players and sees how they are and how they are feeling and treats everybody equally. His attitude towards me and the team has been great so I am looking forward to playing for him.

We have just had a very unlucky start; there have been games we played with ten men. We had a streak of 3 or 4 games at the beginning of the season where we had 8 to 9 men injured at one time. It was just really unlucky."

Despite the arrival of the wily Andy Reid from Tottenham, whose midfield creativity has compensated somewhat for the loss of central cogs Danny Murphy and Alexi Smertin, Charlton's squad looked threadbare when a string of key men got injured early this campaign and the team find themselves bottom of the pile with eight points from twelve matches and the equal worst away record and goal difference in the top flight.

Relegation appeared a real possibility for a club that had become content with a stable mid-table mediocrity. When a board that had salivated at the prospect of a slice of next season's £1.7billion Premier League TV deal and had spent like never before to make sure they had a seat at the table, saw the trap door opening beneath them, they pressed the panic button.

Dowie is a man well-liked in football circles, with even his former nemesis and Palace chairman Simon Jordan backing him in his hour of misfortune.

"I think parting company with someone after 12 games is very early and is not what support is about," Jordan said. "Support is about supporting people in adversity, unless they are really going the wrong way."

Dowie is still one of the best home-grown coaches around and is sure to re-surface before long, perhaps in the Championship, where Charlton may find themselves anyway next season.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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