Why Dowie's band are delighted all over

Palace upstart earns reward for blend of business, fitness and psychology
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The Independent Football

If the oeuvre of the Dave Clark Five - rather optimistically tagged "The Tottenham Sound" in the early Sixties as a putative rival to what was happening by the Mersey - was to live on, it should presumably have been in north London rather than south of the Thames. Instead, and for no very good reason that anyone can remember, the thumping drumbeat of "Glad All Over" came to be adopted as Crystal Palace's theme tune.

It is still heard every time the teams emerge from the tunnel and after a Palace win; which means that Mr Clark's quintet had to wait until last Monday, eight matches into the new season, for any victory royalties. Not that Palace followers have been morbidly echoing the follow-up hit of 40 years ago, "Bits And Pieces" ("All I do is sit and cry"). Despite a run of five successive defeats after the opening draw at Norwich, the wave of excite-ment caused by last season's run from 21st in the First Division to winning the play-off final against West Ham five months later is still carrying them along. If the worst comes to the worst and relegation follows, as the pundits predict, that will be nothing new; Palace went down three times (and up twice) in the first six seasons of the Premiership.

For the past fortnight, however, they have been pleased all over, following up an impressive performance in the 1-1 draw at Aston Villa with last Monday's equally well-deserved 2-0 win at home to an inept Fulham, who obligingly had Ian Pearce sent off in the first 10 minutes. Then, just as the momentum is building, another international week (sic) 10 days long comes along to interrupt it.

"We did a video analysis and half the team weren't here for it," said Iain Dowie, whose appointment as manager last December sparked off the extraordinary run from relegation candidates to promotion contenders. "In terms of preparation for Bolton on Saturday it's not ideal, but Sam [Allardyce] will be the same."

Dowie, one of the sport's bright young thinkers, is big on preparation: "A massive part of my work is from Sunday to Friday night. If we concentrate on our preparation and work as hard as we can and are as smart as we can be, that's important. And the mental side of the game is massive too."

In those areas he has an unusual back-up team, including his brother Bob and John Harbin, an Australian working as fitness conditioner. "My brother, who had a very good job with a lot of security and longevity as a sales director, was our chief scout and is now director of football," Dowie said. "He's very perceptive about other teams and now with his business acumen he does contracts and negotiations, and he'll oversee the reinvigoration of our academy and the development of the training ground, so we leave a proper legacy here.

"John was at Queensland's rugby league development centre, then worked for Wakefield Trinity and Oldham Roughyeds, and when I was at Oldham [Athletic] about three years ago I had a chat with him that developed into a two-hour conversation about things like water-recovery. We did a lot of swimming at Oldham, I think we were about the first, and mixed it in with things like boxing, and John's become a very formative influence for me. He's a trained psychologist, he's been a schoolteacher and a meat-worker, so like me he's been outside the world of sport and knows what it's like. He's my confidant, we have a very open relationship and he demands the highest standards. Probably our weakness is we're both a little bit intense, we can burn people out with our intensity."

No shrinking violets either in the boardroom, where Dowie has taken part in the occasional full and frank exchange of views with the club's young mobile-phone millionaire, Simon Jordan, despite their successful partnership: "We've had some abrasive times. I'm a very strong character and he's a very strong character, it's not all been sweetness and light, but we're both straight talkers and he understands that I want the best for this club, as he does. He's been very supportive, and let's have it right, he's been one of those chairmen who put a lot of money into the club."

Jordan could not resist using the club programme last week to spell out some of the sums involved since winning promotion: £5m on players, an additional £9m on wages, £2m on bonuses and almost £2m on extra transfer payments. That money bought a dozen new players, and more would have arrived had Michael Carrick, Tim Cahill or Crewe's Dean Ashton been keen on a move. (Jordan has a particularly splendid rant about Cahill's agent, who presumably found Everton more accommodating). He also dismisses suggestions that he is keen to get some money back by selling out while the club are in the Premiership: "I am not selling to Colonel Gaddafi, Ron Noades or Uncle Tom Cobbleigh, so it looks as though you are stuck with me."

To their delight, supporters are now "stuck" with both Dowie, who has just signed a new four-year contract, and the leading scorer, Andy Johnson, who waited until he knew the manager's future had been secured before following suit for an even longer period. There is clearly mutual admiration between the two, the former Northern Ireland international striker having helped transform Johnson's scoring rate from eight in 83 games at Birmingham to 51 in 91 for Palace. Only at home to Chelsea have Palace failed to score, and now they have a clean sheet to their name as well. Off the bottom of the table at last, it's not exactly - to purloin Dave Clark's back catalogue further - "Catch Us If You Can". But they are up and running, and swimming, and boxing, and Dowie will keep them at it.

"We've got five points, we need another 35 and quick, which is a massive ask. We've not been ripped apart, even by Chelsea, we've defended OK. We're an emerging side, a little more competitive. Whether we're good enough remains to be seen. But we'll be as well prepared as anyone, we'll have a go and we'll enjoy it."