Football: Resurgent Dowie still optimistic

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The Independent Online
FOR A player in the autumn of his career, Iain Dowie still has a spring in his step. As the player-coach at Queen's Park Rangers the emphasis for the Northern Ireland striker these days is on game plans rather than playing. But against Moldova on Wednesday night he did not look his 33 years as he chased around the Windsor Park turf like a spring lamb.

Dowie's reward in the Euro 2000 qualifier was his first international goal since April 1997 to leave him just one short of Colin Clarke's Northern Ireland record of 13.

His header was the perfect riposte to those who had sneered at him for carrying on with the Irish when he has all but given up playing for his club. While he would love to break Clarke's record, he revealed it is the pride he feels playing for his country that really keeps him going.

"It was nice to get the goal, and I think there are a few people who have been saying this is Iain Dowie's epitaph," he said.

"Of course I would like to break the record, but that does not drive me on. Playing for Northern Ireland drives me on, and if you can't get up for internationals you shouldn't be in the game.

"I believe I have something more to give. There may come a time when the James Quinns and Phil Grays come along and take that mantle, which would be fine. But there may also come a time when, with 20 minutes left in a game, they might feel they need to put me on, and that's what I will be available for."

Despite having Northern Ireland's all-time scoring record in his sights, Dowie insists his real goal is helping his countrymen to a place in the Euro 2000 finals. That is looking increasingly unlikely however, after the Northern Irish could only manage a 2-2 draw from the Moldova game.

The Northern Irish have now taken four points from three games, and their next Group Three opponents are the European champions, Germany, who visit Windsor Park in March.

But a defiant Dowie insisted: "We've got to bounce back and get a result against Germany, because if we do that then the whole picture changes again."