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Crystal Palace and the Dowie Dilemma

So, as another day passes, another couple of managers are very heavily linked with the still vacant Palace managerial post, but no word or sign from the club of any permanent appointment as of yet. Of the latest names to be suggested for the role is one of our former managers, Iain Dowie, in what would definitely constitute as a “surprise” choice, if he were to be given the job. He has the “Palace connection” that the board would prefer, but his return would unanimously upset quite a large number of our fans.

This is why. Firstly, I have nothing against Dowie personally. I loved the passion he bestowed when he played for Palace, his spell with us was just too brief sadly. When he returned to Selhurst Park in December 2003, as a young, hungry up and coming manager, myself, along with the majority of other Eagles fans, thoroughly enjoyed our rapid and unexpected rise to the Premiership. Dowie’s motivational skills came to the fore, and he really worked miracles that season. It was real “Roy of the Rovers” stuff as we rose from 19th place in the old Division One in December, to land the final play-off spot in the league, a run which comprised an incredible tally of 17 wins from 23 games. The momentum gained over this period was immense, I can remember visiting the Stadium Of Light and defeating Sunderland on penalties in the play-off semi-final, before ending West Ham’s Premier League aspirations at Cardiff. Gosh, that was a great day out!

Back in the top league, and without surprise, Palace struggled, and after a very brave relegation fight, went down in glory, in a final day seesaw encounter at local “rivals” Charlton Athletic. I say “rivals”, as this rivalry has never really been felt by the Palace fans. We hate Brighton. We just “put up” with Charlton, like an irritating younger sibling, or a nagging wife. We even gave them a home for a few years. We felt pity for them. The sickening feeling that we all experienced on that May (relegation) day still, unfortunately, linger in my memory now. Charlton and their fans really rubbed our noses in it. Which is fine by me – we would have done exactly the same thing if the boot had been on the other foot, I don’t doubt that. The thing that really baffled, and saddened me though, was the behaviour of a certain Mr Dowie, just over a year later. Having failed to get an even better squad promoted (than the promotion winning 2004 squad), when approached by Charlton about their vacant manager’s post, he thought that he would test everybody’s geographical knowledge, and somehow try to convince our ex-Chairman, Simon Jordan and scores of Palace fans, that Charlton was a peaceful town in the North-West of England, closer to his young family. Not to be mistaken with THAT Charlton up the road in South-East London…

Dowie had a compensation clause in his contract, meaning that if he left for another club, that club would have to pay Palace £1 million in compensation. To potentially please his new employers, and save them a few quid, Dowie pleaded with Jordan to release him from his Palace contract “for family reasons”. Needless to say, his decision to try and bluff us all backfired spectacularly, when, very soon after and on the day of his presentation to the media as the new Charlton Athletic manager, Dowie was served a legal writ by a stumbling/running lawyer claiming that he had misled Palace about his reasons for leaving. This case rumbled on for over a year, and despite it being branded a “sad and pathetic publicity stunt” by the then Charlton Chief Executive, Peter Varney, the High Court ruled otherwise in 2007, and Dowie’s deceit was laid bare for all to see. As Simon Jordan had suspected, Dowie had spoken at some length with Charlton whilst still managing Palace, irrevocably muddying his reputation amongst the Palace fans, and certainly with both players and other staff at the club at the time. Dowie was punished heavily financially for his misdemeanours, and I suppose the most satisfactory thing for us Palace supporters was this – Dowie went on to become an epic failure at Charlton, and was fired after just 15 games of the Premier League season, with Charlton rooted to the bottom of the table.

Since then, Dowie has endured a very unspectacular managerial career – taking in brief spells at Coventry City, Queens Park Rangers and Hull City. He even assisted Alan Shearer at Newcastle United for a short while, but was ousted following their relegation that season.

As I mentioned above, I have nothing against Iain Dowie, and he obviously has his reasons for leaving Palace as he did. I believe that there are always two sides to every story, and I am certain that Simon Jordan was not the easiest man to work for at times. I am purely commentating on this from a fans point of view, and I was staggered to read that our diligent owners, CPFC 2010, have spoken to Dowie about the manager’s position. In no other industry than football would an employee behave like he did, have his “wrong actions” proven in the High Court, yet six years later be approached about returning to work for said (jilted) employer – albeit under different ownership, as the head man. But then again, following Palace has never been, and never will be, straight forward. That’s why we can’t escape the pull, and the constant ironies.

I advocate the notion that Palace maybe looking to Dowie as a “red adair” short term type of manager, with a potential Premier League survival plan, based on his extreme success with our club the first time around. But, if offered the role, can Dowie seriously replicate the past, and how would the fans ever be able to warm to him again, or trust anything he says? Is he really the right man for this role, at this club, at THIS time?

If Dowie is again given the opportunity to change Palace’s fortunes around, I for one will support him, and support Palace 100%. I always will. Some supporters won’t be able to see through the past, I am certain of that – and Iain Dowie would have to be very well prepared, and thick skinned for such a certain backlash. I am sure he would be well aware of this. But I can’t help but fathom that the Dowie route is not the correct one for Palace to take at this specific time. This season is the largest opportunity Palace have had in years, we haven’t been relegated yet, and I genuinely thought that either Aitor Karanka (now Middlesbrough manager), or Rene Meulensteen (new Fulham Coach), would be nailed on for the job – a new dawn with a young man running the show – the bookies all thought so too – so I was surprised that they both “slipped the net”, from Palace’s point of view. Maybe they were offered the job, and turned it down, or maybe they just didn’t want it. Who knows?

One thing for sure though is that there aren’t many great options open to Palace right now. Of the other, less likely (it seems) choices available to us are the very distinct possibility that ex-Chelsea defender Dan Petrescu can be lured from Dinamo Moscow, if the terms and contract length can be agreed. It has been reported Petrescu requires at least a two year deal to leave his current post – which is fair enough I think. Petrescu would be an intriguing choice, and his managerial record is very impressive, it must be said.

There is also the unlikely, but extremely ambitious theory that our new Sporting Director, Iain Moody (ex-Cardiff) can lure Malky Mackay from his former club, for a happy reunion. Of course Mackay was distraught that his staunch allay had been fired. How great would this be? Very very good from my point of view. Seemingly, however volatile the Cardiff owner Vincent Tan is reported to be, I am not sure if Mackay would want to swap another struggling side for us, but in football, you never know – and perhaps this story has some credit, and the rest is all a fuzzy smokescreen….

But then again, this is Palace – so expect Iain Dowie to be appointed immediately.

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