Offside, 7 October
On Palace's bouncebackability.
We’ve waited a long time for the first fisting of the season but when it finally arrived on Monday night we roared with unbridled pleasure.
In case you’re wondering, no I haven’t packed in the football writing and taken to scripting gay porn films instead. The ‘fisting’ to which I refer is Crystal Palace manager Iain Dowie’s ritual post-match victory celebration. Before leaving the pitch Dowie turns to the Palace supporters and theatrically punches the air in triumph. The Dowie ‘fisting’ – as the gesture has become known to aficionados on fan message boards – has become a crowd-pleasing institution. ‘It’s just a spontaneous thing that I’ve done. When you win it’s always nice to show that’, Dowie explained to the Croydon Advertiser. ‘It’s a little bit of a victory punch. Hopefully there’ll be a few more of them.’
But the last time we were treated to a good Dowie fisting (as you can see, the smutty possibilities are endless) was five months ago after the Palace play-off semi-final against Sunderland. This season Dowie fistings have been as rare as Michael Owen goal celebrations. After two wretched months Palace had acquired just two points from seven matches, leading Alan Hansen to suggest that Palace were the worst team in Premiership history.
But if there’s one quality that Dowie’s Palace team possesses it is great ‘bouncebackability’. In case you are not familiar with this particular neologism let me elucidate. The origins of the word are unclear but Dowie is credited with pioneering its use in a football context. It means the capacity of a team to come back from a losing position to a winning one (‘Clive, the boys done great to recover from that early goal. They showed great bouncebackability’). Its use need not, however, be confined to the realm of sport. It could easily be employed in popular music (‘Elvis was bouncebackability personified on his ’68 comeback tour’), or religion (‘The lad Jesus showed t’rrific bouncebackability rising from the dead’), or even politics (‘Jeremy, the Tory Party is utterly bereft of bouncebackability’).
The word has rapidly acquired cult status thanks largely to Sky Sports Soccer AM programme that has been campaigning for ‘bouncebackability’ to be recognised by the Oxford English dictionary. The Football365 website is selling Iain Dowie bouncebackability t-shirts, and there is also an online petition to support the campaign for dictionary status (though the current tally of 232 signatures is, I suspect, unlikely to trouble the lexicographers). Palace fans have even started chanting ‘Bounce-back-a-bility’ to the tune of ‘La Donna é Mobile’ from Verdi’s Rigoletto.
Bouncebackability is a quality that Crystal Palace once possessed by the bucketload (maybe I’m mixing metaphors here – it’s an occupational hazard when handling new terminology). Palace used to be the archetypal yo-yo team, regularly bouncing back and forth between the top two divisions. But after our last relegation in the 1997/8 season we lost our bouncebackability. Thanks to the financial incompetence of former chairman Mark Goldberg, Palace went from a yo-yo team to an ‘Oh no!’ team flirting with relegation and financial extinction.
We were perilously close to the drop zone when Iain Dowie took over as manager last Christmas. He brought in a rugby league fitness coach, introduced novel motivational techniques, and taught us the joys of fisting. But most of all he restored bouncebackability to the team. He turned relegation candidates into promotion chasers, losers into winners, in a few months.
If getting out of the First Division (now rebranded something like the Mickey Mouse Championship) was tough, then staying in the Premiership is starting to resemble Mission Impossible. The gulf between the top two tiers of English football is ever widening, as illustrated by the fact that it took two months before any of the three promoted teams actually won a game. However, after five successive league defeats, Palace are at last showing signs of life. After a battling 1-1 draw away to Villa, we recorded our first Premiership victory on Monday night against Fulham. ‘Hansen, what’s the score?’ sang the jubilant Palace supporters as the Eagles ran out 2-0 winners.
What are Palace’s bounceback prospects for the rest of the season? Chairman Simon Jordan is bullish about the club’s survival chances. ‘We have no intention of being cannon-fodder or candidates for immediate relegation’, he has insisted. But the relatively modest transfer kitty given to Dowie strongly indicates that Jordan is budgeting for a return to the Football League next season. This is the harsh reality for promoted clubs post-ITV Digital. Clubs may have to yo-yo between divisions before they can establish themselves in the Premiership. Or as we say in Croydon: Bouncebackability today, Champions League tomorrow.
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