14 November 2006

Dowie Out

Well, Charlton have sacked Iain Dowie. With the Addicks in last place on 8 points, it was perhaps inevitable.

Still, it's a bit disappointing to see him go. I've been a fan of Dowie for a couple years, after watching Crystal Palace in the Prem. They almost avoided relegation, but got demotion on the last day of the 2005 season -- a wild day that saw four teams fighting for the last safe spot. Palace were perhaps a bit naive, but they always came to play and produced entertaining soccer even when they lost. Aside from Andy Johnson, Palace had arguably the lowest overall level of talent in the Prem, and it was an accomplishment to even have a chance for survival so late in the year.

Palace's subsequent promotion campaign faded in the second half of the season, and Dowie left Palace and quickly moved to Charlton. The move came with controversy and court cases -- Palace felt that Dowie had misled them about a move to another London team. But from a soccer standpoint, it seemed like a good move for Charlton. Led by Alan Curbishley, they'd been stuck in neutral for years, generally unable to compete with the better clubs. Since promotion in 2000, they've finished as follows: 9th, 14th, 12th, 7th, 11th, and 13th. That's almost the definition of midtable obscurity. And speaking subjectively, Charlton have been bland and uninteresting (kind of like Curbishley, come to think of it). They definitely needed a shake-up.

Dowie is an interesting character. He has a Master's degree in mechanical engineering, and worked for British Aerospace before starting his playing career. On the sideline, he is animated and entertaining, shunning the standard manager's suit and tie for a warm-up suit and athletic shoes. And he's known for having a progressive approach to fitness and match preparation. So signing Dowie seemed like a good move for Charlton. Maybe he could bring a fresh spark that would light a fire in the team.

Unfortunately the results have been more of a wet blanket. Charlton have faced an early-season rash of injuries that left them uncompetitive, completing 12 Prem matches with a record of 2-2-8. That record wouldn't leave many managers confident in their continued employment, but still it's surprising to see Charlton walk away from a manager that they worked so hard to bring in.

I've long felt that Charlton needed to see something dramatic to shake them out of their midtable complacency. A credible campaign for a spot in Europe would do that. But relegation would have that effect too. Maybe changing the management will help them avoid the drop. But my suspicion is that losing Dowie makes it more likely rather than less. Either way, here's hoping that the Addicks can find a path to becoming a more interesting team -- and that Dowie can find another club that's interested in his services.

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