48-year old Iain Dowie has had a fascinating career, with intense highs to match the lows.
Nowadays he is known for his work as a pundit with Sky Sports, but he has had a lengthy managerial career with stints at Oldham Athletic, Charlton Athletic and Queen’s Park Rangers among others, and worked as a consultant at Hull City.
His most notable achievement was winning promotion with an unexceptional Crystal Palace side in 2004, defeating Alan Pardew’s West Ham United 1-0 in the old Division One play-off final.
Most significantly for readers of The Boar, he spent a season in charge of The University of Warwick’s local club, Coventry City.
And who could forget his infamous own goal against Stockport County in 1996 when playing for West Ham United?
Chloe Wynne interviewed the Northern Irishman especially for The Boar’s careers edition.
Chloe Wynne: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us and reflect on your career. Before you made it as a professional footballer you completed a Mechanical Engineering degree followed up with a short stint at British Aerospace. Because of this, you are known as one of the most intelligent football managers in the English league. It is also an unconventional route into the sport. Is football something you always wanted to do, or did you just get the right opportunities?
Iain Dowie: Football was always my number one love, and I played throughout my time at university, but I was turned down at 16 by a professional club so only got my opportunity after university.
C: Luton Town signed you in 1989, which was your first big break into the sport. What are your memories of this time?
I: I remember huge characters within the Luton Town dressing room and this was a great grounding for me. I had to go out on loan before I made my break into the first team, though.
C: In your 13 years of playing professional football you have a whole host of achievements. Perhaps most notably you are known for your 59 caps and 12 goals playing for Northern Ireland. What was your proudest moment from your football career?
I: My proudest moment has to be when captaining Northern Ireland to a 2-1 victory against Uruguay and becoming the first Ulsterman to score at Lansdowne Road. That was incredible.
Unfortunately, the project was not how it was sold to me and I felt that I could have achieved a lot more
C: Conversely, what did you find were your main difficulties that you faced when playing?
I: For me it was hard being accepted into the team and my lack of grounding in the professional game. I suppose this was overcome by the long, long hours training on Luton’s plastic pitch.
C: After your playing days you pursued a career in managing, beginning with QPR in 1998, and Oldham Athletic a few years later. What new challenges did you face, working in a different role within the same sport?
I: It poses hugely different challenges. It is a 24/7 job, organisation, technical, tactical and psychological challenges and dealing with 22 totally unique individuals.
C: Despite some poor early-season form you got Crystal Palace promoted into the Premier League. What would you say was most responsible for the incredible run that saw you promoted?
I: It was down to a few things, really: player selection, an intense fitness regime, a great spirit and camaraderie, as well as honest and open feedback with the players.
C: Your time at the University’s local club, Coventry City, also saw considerable success: you won over 40% of your games in charge at the Ricoh. What did you enjoy most about your time there?
I: I had a fabulous time there with good players and, again, a great spirit. Unfortunately, the project was not how it was sold to me and I felt that I could have achieved a lot more with the right support.
C: Unfortunately, the Coventry City that exists now is a very different club to the one you worked at. What do you make of the financial problems they have at the moment, and also the fact that they’re not even playing at their own stadium…?
I: I believe the club needs the stadium like the stadium needs the club. Although the club is doing very well (they lie eleventh in League One despite a ten-point deduction), the sooner they are back at the Ricoh Arena the better, and hopefully with a change of ownership.
C: And as for your new career as a Sky Sports pundit, how are you enjoying it? Does it give you a different perspective on the game?
I: I love my new role, because for the most part I am working on the gantry, which allows me to get a birds eye view of the pitch and that allows me to get a tactical oversight of the game.
C: And as a West Ham United fan, what do you make of their season so far?
I: I feel that Sam has done an excellent job defensively and during his whole time there, but we are clearly struggling for goals and need Andy Carroll back as soon as possible.
C: To finish, any predictions for the results of this year’s Premier League?
I: Hmm. I think that Manchester City will win, possibly with Chelsea close behind in second. Then Arsenal third, and a toss up between United and Tottenham for fourth.
C: And, what advice would you give to prospective footballers trying to break into the sport?
I: You need to be totally dedicated, work on your weaknesses as well as your strengths, listen to coaches but also question them if you are unsure. Finally – and most importantly – you need to believe in yourself.