Iain Dowie has a masters degree in aeronautics. I guess you could call him a rocket scientist then. He’s certainly intelligent enough — one of the smartest footballers I’ve interviewed down the years.
He’s like Solomon compared to most of them.
But in an interview this week with the engaging 46-year-old at Rathgael Gymnastics and Tumbling Club in Bangor, I did wonder if the big man had lost a few brain cells recently.
Reason? He wants to get back into the unstable world of coaching and management.
This is a guy, proving extremely popular with Sky Sports viewers, as one of their team of experts.
He’s making a good living sitting in a studio or in a stand giving his thoughts on various games and issues. No pressure, no abuse. And no chance of the axe from a foreign owner or chairman unhappy with results.
In the Premier League this season Roy Hodgson (Liverpool), Sam Allardyce (Blackburn) and Chris Hughton (Newcastle) have all lost their jobs already.
Go further down the scale and there seems to be a dismissal on a daily basis in the Football League.
An ice lolly salesman in the Antarctic has more job security.
Dowie, though, to use footballing speak, wants “back in”.
He says: “I’m enjoying the TV work. Sky have been good to me and I try to give them something different, like a manager’s perspective, but deep in my heart my biggest love is coaching and it always will be.
“I think my record stands up to scrutiny. I have taken on some tough challenges that didn’t quite work out, but I wouldn’t change anything. In any aspect of life the big challenges can be character building.”
Dowie has faced down challenges all his life, including helping his wife Debbie when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Happily she is recovering and has started a succesful charity called Boot out Breast Cancer.
He worked in a “real job” — as an engineer at a missile factory — before becoming a professional footballer at the age of 22.
He had a good career as a bustling in your face striker, scoring goals for Luton, Fulham (on loan), Southampton, Crystal Palace, QPR and at two spells with his beloved West Ham. He and the fans also enjoyed 10 years of passion filled displays for Northern Ireland.
Then came management with varying degrees of success at Oldham, Crystal Palace, Charlton, Coventry, QPR and Hull. His last job was as Alan Shearer’s number two at Newcastle in the season they were relegated from the Premier League.
Far from depressing him, the Newcastle experience enhanced his hunger for the game.
“Newcastle was a fabulous experience. I’m a West Ham fan and remain so but I have to say I’ve never been at a football club of that magnitude — probably because I wasn’t good enough,” he says.
“Alan Shearer said to me you will understand why I didn’t go to other clubs when you come here and he was right. I thought Chris Hughton did a great job when he came in and now Alan Pardew is there as boss. I hope he does well because really Newcastle should be a top fiive club.”
Dowie admits the game has changed so much since he started out. With fire in his eyes, he says: “Look at the Sam Allardyce and Chris Hughton situations. What else are both of them supposed to have done? Decisions like that are made which baffle everyone.
“Roy Hodgson was the Manager of the Year last season, and he’s gone after six months from Liverpool. I’m not saying Kenny Dalglish won’t give the place a lift, but only giving Roy six months invites questions because the short termism doesn’t tend to work.
“Chairmen and owners now are trigger happy. I do understand they are under pressure too. We live in a world of social media and when someone is critical about a manager’s decisions on radio or on the internet it virtually becomes seen as fact.
“Then serious pressure is generated from the fans very quickly and that’s why I think it is very important to have the players with you. The best managers have that. Jose Mourinho is the finest example of that. All his players, wherever he goes, love him.
“I like to think that I got on well with players when I was a boss.
“I’ve always tried to be honest with players and if they were ever out of line, I would sit them down and tell them.
“If I left a player out of the team I would look them in the eye and tell them why. It didn’t matter how big the player was. I remember doing that with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink at Charlton and he didn’t like it, but I am good friends with him now because I was honest with him.
“I may be a players manager but that doesn’t mean I am easy on them. I expect standards of the highest order.”
Dowie, whose sons Oliver (17) and William (14) are showing potential as players, comes to Northern Ireland any chance he can and returned this week to lend his support to the new Bouncebackability Fund which aims to help charities, community groups and sports clubs like Rathgael Gymnastics, that lost thousands of pounds when NTF, a company proposing to fund them, failed to deliver on promises.
Dowie says: “Bouncebackability means to have an ability not to be defeated by difficult circumstances.
“It is great to see local organisations who’ve refused to be knocked down by someone who has taken their money but has obviously not taken away their hope, resilience and drive to change their circumstances.”
Resilence and drive — qualities Dowie still has in abundance.