Football people on TV: Iain Dowie

Matt Stead

This week Johnny glances up at his TV and lets out a small scream, as 52” of High Definition Iain Dowie looks back at him with wild, dancing eyes.


Fashion police
Has your two basic alpha male, ex-pro uniforms. The pitchside tracksuited competitive dad, or more often these days, the father-of-the-bride suit and tie. No clothing worn has any concession to the garish or feminine. Everything is designed to say I’m A Bloke, I wear bloke clothes and I won’t not never not be wearing bloke clothes, Jeff.

So it’s all the more surprising to find evidence to the contrary.

Clearly, Iain missed his vocation of working in a curry house.

Has always had a creative way with facial expressions, going right back to his playing days.

One of those men who only briefly had hair and has come to suit the fact that it went on holiday and never returned.


Lingo bingo
Very distinctive London twangy. Goal is “gowul” and there’s a few w’s instead of r’s. Easily one of the fastest talkers you’ll ever come across on the telly. Never better than when something very exciting has happened

Then again, he seems to be able to get excited by almost anything to do with football. Does live reports rattling out words at high pace, turning around quickly to look at the pitch, then back to the camera, eyes flicking from side to side, as though the thoughts in his head are too many and too complex for his mouth to express, thus words sometimes get knotted up.

Must have one of the highest adrenaline levels of any broadcaster. Passion is always an attractive quality.

Co-comms on Northern Ireland in the Euro 2016 were a lot of fun. Greeted their second goal against Ukraine with an eardrum tearing roar and was caught on film celebrating, hands aloft.

Something of a cunning linguist, his most famous contribution to the vernacular was the invention and brief popularization of the world ‘bouncebackabilty’ which swept the nation for a few months around 2004, and then, oddly enough, was dropped just as quickly. To date this is something of a one-hit wonder for him, but we live in hope of a new word.


Hits and misses
Iain’s first hit is to be an educated footballer with an engineering degree. Given you get called the professor in English football if you read a broadsheet newspaper, they must think of Dowie as some sort of Million Dollar Brain. Made himself a playing career out of almost nothing but determination, thighs and sweat and never tries to pretend otherwise. Very much the boiled potato on the menu in the restaurant of life.

Managerial career never really worked out. Seemed to keep being relegated and sacked.

Has always seemed to be on the second 11 for Sky behind your Merses, Tis, Chazs and Tommos but when required to step up and perform, no-one does it with more unalloyed joy for the game. Easy to imagine him taking the call and bounding to the studio like a dog chasing after a ball in the park. One of those football obsessives who would literally watch a kickabout in the park, criticising the refereeing and the full-back’s tactical awareness, as though it’s a Premier League match.

His unique appearance means he’s a very distinctive, unmistakable presence on the TV and this seems to be what we all love about Iain. He’s got an unusual even-handed passion. Even when sent out to cover a some windswept league cup game, he still seems to love it. Any football is good football.

Has also just become a sales manager for Go To Surveys, which looks suspiciously like a real job.


Big club bias
None at all, seems almost professionally humble. Never one to be too cool for school. Never tries to use professional career as a stick to beat the public with. Happy to accept his limitations, and that’s the sign of man with little ego.


Loved or loathed
My social media research unearthed a lot of appreciation for the man once dubbed Earthworm Jim.

“He is like an excited dog when their owner walks into the room.”

“Actually comes across as reasonably well informed, particularly on international football.”

“Kinda looks like someone has drawn a face on a thumb.”

“Looks like he could play a brain-fried senior officer in a Vietnam film who drunkenly sends all his troops to their doom.”

“Possesses one of the most startled and startling faces in the modern world. A truly unique being.”

“Sloth’s excitable but more handsome younger brother.”

“He spends an awful lot of time looking like a confused ghost, suddenly apparated in a world of zonal marking and false 9’s.”

“…refreshing to hear someone speak of their shortcomings as a player without it really being a boast.”

“He’s like an extremely upset Sesame Street character.”

“Honest and excitable.”

“He bloody loves Serie A.”

“Did the Spurs v Inter friendly last week, was surprised by how much he knew about every Inter player. Others should take note.”

“Doesn’t seem to default to blaming foreigners.”

“Expert in middle mgmt mumbo-jumbo. A decent skin though.”

“I like him, mostly because he has a real job outside of football too.”

“Once saw him in the press room at Elland Road. He actually said “oh, referee!” at the TV. Suggests man in touch with his roots.”

So, in summary, most enjoy his honesty, enthusiasm and straight up and down character. The fact he’s the opposite of glamorous only endears him to we, the lumpen public, even more. Although it’d be easy to think he was part of the ex-player blowhard-ocracy, he actually is very well informed and much more clued up than most of his co-workers.


Proper Football Man
Yeah, that Dowie fella has all the PFM attributes. The substantial frame, the grafter’s career, the face only a mother could love, has spent years getting up the arse of defenders and then regularly getting the sack as a manager, when all he needed was more time, Jeff. British managers aren’t fashionable though, if only he’d been called Dowiello.

But the problem is Iaino, err…Dowieio…no…err…Dowza? Nah, that’s rubbish. See, you can’t be reduced to a quality nickname. That’s no good. And there’s a worrying lack of stupidity about you. How the hell have you got a degree? No, he’s not married to one of Three Degrees, Merse. Shuttup for minute and look at this shtick.

And there’s this getting a proper job business, that’s no good either. Any PFM worth a flick of a wet towel knows getting a proper job is for mugs. Better to pick up large amounts of cash from foreign owners, while decrying all the foreign owners in the game. That or just turning up on TV full of brandy and talking absolute self-pitying, out-dated, xenophobic rubbish in return for large bags of cash. Working is strictly for the civilians.

And, to be fair, Dowels, if we’re going for a night out in legendary Belfast nightclub The Shaven Shamrock Shaft, your unique physical qualities are going to scare away all the classy ladies and that’ll make Pards very cross because he’s just had a bath and bought a new bottle of Blue Stratos. There’s a chance you might pull Miss Cobbler’s Thumb and Blacksmith’s Wound of 1981, I suppose. But you do look like you can drink a couple of Reidy’s new Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters. What’s in it, Reidy, son? Bloody hell, nitroglycerine, polydimethylsiloxane and liquidized wet wipes? Give us a go. Actually, that’s deliciously cleansing and explosively detoxifying; toilet-breakingly so, in fact.

But all’s not lost. You do like the golf, so you can be on the bench, Dowie-do-dah, and can come on the lash with us if there’s vacancy due to Deano getting stuck in a cooling tower or Merse sets his trousers alight..


Beyond the lighted stage
His niece is an England footballer. Brother Bob also hoofed around the nether regions. Has done fundraising for the charity Boot Out Breast Cancer. Plays in the International Footballers v International Cricketers golf tournament in Portugal, which surely must be a bantathon of huge proportions.


John Nicholson