Dowie bounces back as QPR go up in the world

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The Independent Football

When he introduced the word "bouncebackability" to the English language, Iain Dowie can scarcely have imagined how it would come to define his own managerial career. He coined it when he was the manager of Crystal Palace – specifically as a testament to his side's response in a match against Arsenal – and it was apposite that it should be originated by a man who displays such an admirable contempt for adversity. Which is why, despite his travails on the way, he will start the new Championship season as the managerof QPR, who are the bookmakers' favourites to rejoin the elite after an absence of 12 years.

After a period of relative obscurity – QPR finishing 14th, 18th and 21st in the last three seasons – the bookies' odds may surprise many as they survey an ultra-competitive league. Particularly given a manager whose life and times sometimes remind you of a catherine wheel affected by damp. It bursts into life, spins, sometimes spectacularly, then splutters before picking up again.

Favouritism is not uncon-nected to the fact that the men who have reignited the blue touchpaper of his career, the Renault F1 team principal Flavio Briatore, the F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone, oh, and the world's fifth wealthiest man, Lakshmi Mittal, yield to few in monied might. Though that fellow a few miles across London at Stamford Bridge may just have something to say about that.

Yet does such conspicuous financial clout create a desire for instant gratification that may be impossible to satisfy? After all, when Mittal bought 20 per cent of the club in late December, a statement referred to the "ambition of the current shareholders to reach the Premier League in the near future".

"Only time will tell about that," says Dowie. "Yes, it's a high-profile appointment, but I'd much prefer to take over at a club with expectations than one that hasn't." So, no Chelsea-like ultimatums then? "No, nothing like that... though clearly this is an ambitious club. We want success and that means getting us out of this division. But if we're in and around the play-offs and it's clear that everyone's pushing the right way, then that's great."

Thus far, the only money spent has been on the Latvian international defender Kaspars Gorkss from Blackpool. The arrivals of goalkeeper Radek Cerny (from Sparta Prague) and defender Peter Ramage (from Newcastle) were both free transfers. There have also been loan deals involving a 20-year-old midfielder, Emmanuel Jorge Ledesema (from Genoa) and a 19-year-old striker, Samuel Di Carmine (from Fiorentina).

Though many other names have been mentioned, from Ben Watson (Crystal Palace) to Luis Figo (Inter Milan), Dowie maintains: "I've always said it's about evolution, not revolution. We still want to try and pick up one or two more players, but you've got to be sensible and not goout and smash the wage budget. We want to do things sensibly and build week on week, year on year."

In a 10-year career, this is his sixth appointment already, if we include QPR as caretaker back in 1998, between the stewardships of Ray Harford and Gerry Francis. That was followed by Oldham, before he joined Crystal Palace, whose play-off final triumph propelled them into the Premier League. Relegation ensued and he resigned, before joining Charlton in circumstances that led to litigation with Palace's chairman, Simon Jordan. But Dowie only lasted 15 matches at The Valley. Next came Coventry City, before he arrived back at Loftus Road in May.

One senses that success here would be a pointed reminder of his abilities to certain chairmen. "The situation at Charlton was difficult. You can accept Richard Murray's decision. I've got no animosity about that. The Coventry one's different. I left the club eight points above relegation. They finished one point above relegation. If that's an improvement, I don't know the meaning of the word. Nonetheless, I've nothing to prove to the people at Coventry." Dowie adds, with a laugh: "I'm too old [43] to get bitter and twisted. We all know what football is today. It's a very short-term business. People make decisions. It's down to them to live with that. You have got to move on."

He forecasts that the Championship "will be as tight as it was last year", and anticipates promotion challenges from Birmingham, Reading and possibly Wolves. "It wouldn't even surprise me if Swansea, Nottingham Forest or Doncaster don't come up and have a little go. Palace finished very well, under Neil [Warnock]. Sheffield United had a great end of season. And Burnley and Barnsley have spent money."

Still, most eyes will be on QPR. "We [Dowie and his assistant, Tim Flowers] have come in here, worked very hard, and the players have embraced what we're trying to do. We'll be a fit, organised unit. Though there's other teams in the division who've spent more, that doesn't alter the fact that this club is run by eminently successful people, who want the same from QPR. I'm not naïve enough to think this doesn't bring pressure."