Jordan thrives on the fiery days of Dowie

The ding-dongs that sustain a Championship chairman
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The Independent Online

A topical new feature of the Championship Manager 2006 computer game brought out on Friday is that anyone taking up the challenge can now choose a wealthy benefactor for their club. As Simon Jordan, for whom the word "outspoken" often seems pitifully inadequate, was on hand to promote the venture, it seems only fair to point out what anyone opting to log on and play the Iain Dowie role as manager of Crystal Palace is letting him or herself in for.

"I've had some real ding-dongs with Iain," the benefactor-chairman admitted, "and rem-inded him of his position. But I respect what he does and he respects what I do. He's a winner and a leader and a confront-ationalist, as am I. That gives you spark, and spark gives you energy, and energy gives you success. We learn from one another."

Jordan had to learn fast after paying £10 million for his local club - he was born next to the Selhurst Park ground - in July 2000, becoming the youngest chairman in the country at 32 and promising Premiership football within five years. It took four but lasted only 12 months. Now, however, the club that he thinks should be London's fourth biggest, behind Chelsea, Ars-enal and Tottenham, are likely to be contesting the play-offs again in two months' time.

They will be all the better for the lessons learnt in going up and coming down. "You can't buy experience," Jordan says. "If you come into a business and you're inexperienced, you'll be surprised by it. In this business you're going to be surprised in public and will make mistakes that are seen and commented on. What I've learnt is, get the right man to do the job and let him do it. I made some managerial decisions that weren't right: Alan Smith wasn't right, Trevor Francis wasn't right, Steve Bruce was right and Iain Dowie was right. So two out of four isn't bad for most chairmen."

A fear among some Palace supporters is that the popular Dowie still yearns for a job closer to his family in the North-west, and that an ideal one would become vacant at Bolton this summer should England turn to Sam Allardyce. Jordan is unperturbed: "With due respect to Sam Allardyce, if he gets the England manager's job, we've all got something more to worry about than whether Iain Dowie goes to Bolton! I like Sam a lot, he's done a fabulous job, but that's managing without expectations. Managing Charlton is the same. Managing England, the whole circus, that's the biggest job in world football. And all this 'British bulldog spirit' is nonsense; the best man for the job is the one we want, and if he happens to be Iraqi, so be it."

Not that Jordan is ever likely to be in a position of sufficient power to be making such decisions. "The FA? They'd never have me. They're in a situation where change is uncomfortable for them, it's threatening. They want their blazers, their England tours, sit on panels making bullshit decisions that cost people money."

Charged last December with improper conduct ("It made me sound like a pervert") for criticising a referee, he received a £10,000 fine, suspended for 12 months, which has hardly had the desired effect of tempering his public observations: "I say things for the benefit of my club, and if it happens to upset people, too bad."

Having started so young, Jordan may even be out of football altogether at an age when most entrepreneurs are beginning to think about dipping their toe in the shark-infested waters. "My intention is to get Palace back in the Premiership a.s.a.p., and stabilise for a season. I will buy the stadium, make it 35,000 all-seater, then I've done my job. If the right guy comes along for the right reasons - not a Romanov or some guy like that - I'll say, 'There you go, your chance'."

The FA might be relieved to hear that. But surely he would miss it all, whether or not he eventually takes up an invitation to appear on Celebrity Love Island? "I don't miss things... not women when they leave, not businesses when I sell them. I've never let the door hit me on the arse on the way out."

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