Debbie Dowie - The footballer's wife aiming to Boot Out Breast Cancer

A football manager's wife who fought breast cancer launches a new charity from her Bolton home. Roger Borrell reports

A football manager’s wife who fought breast cancer launches a new charity from her Bolton home. Roger Borrell reports

In a sport dominated by hard cash and brittle egos, modern footballers and their spouses are not exactly held in the highest esteem by us mere mortals.

Step forward Debbie Dowie. She’s attractive, she’s blonde, a former air stewardess who lives in a lovely house in an exclusive part of Bolton.

That’s where the stereotype ends.

Debbie is the wife of Iain Dowie, a former footballer, high profile manager and now a television pundit with Sky. But she is very much her own woman, articulate and single-minded. For instance, how many football families had an African refugee at their table for Christmas dinner?

Through Debbie’s work with Homestart, which trains thousands of volunteers to help parents struggling to cope, she became involved in a campaign to prevent a young African woman being deported. ‘She was fleeing political persecution in Kenya and we eventually managed to stop her being sent back,’ says Debbie.

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‘We got to know her and we invited her to our house to spend Christmas with the family. Apart from being happy to welcome her, I think it was important for my sons to realise there are people much less fortunate than us and to understand it’s important to be hospitable and to give something back.’

There’s no hint of the Lady Bountiful about Debbie but a real feeling that she should use her good fortune to make a difference, mainly through her work for various good causes. Her latest crusade is the result of personal adversity in the form of breast cancer.

‘I was diagnosed last August. I was very fortunate because the Royal Bolton caught it early and I had a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. I’ve always been a very positive person and afterwards I told the surgeon I wanted to do something to help.

‘There are lots of breast cancer charities around but there is a realneed for state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment which will change the lives of thousands.

‘Boot Out Breast Cancer is a new charity using people associated with football to raise its profile and help raise many thousands to purchasethis equipment.’

The shopping list includes a scanner which has a higher detection rate, an ultrasound probe to spot tumours at an early stage and equipment which can give an on-the-spot analysis of lymph nodes allowing for their immediate removal if there is a positive result. It means women would no longer have an agonising two week wait for the test.

In all, the kit, to be based at the Nightingale Centre at the University Hospital for South Manchester, will cost in excess of �120,000. A fair chunk of that will come from a glittering ball being held in Manchester during November - an event that already looks over-subscribed.

In many respects, Debbie not only owes her life to the skill and dedication of the medics who treated her, but also a close friend whose own experience of the disease led her to urge Debbie to seek immediate help when she found a lump. Sadly, there was no happy ending for Debbie’s friend.If you want to find out more about Boot Out Breast Cancer, you cancontact Debbie Dowie on

Boot out Breast cancer has already got some high profile support including Newcastle United legend Alan Shearer, who is a patron. He became friends with the Dowies when Iain was part of the managerial set up at St James’ Park.

While the Dowies come from southern England, they’ve embraced Lancashire as their adopted home with sons Ollie and Will attending Bolton School.

‘We love it here and while we are in the process of moving house, we will be staying in Lancashire,’ said Debbie, who keeps fit by running with Iain most days. ‘We first came here when Iain went to Oldham and after only a year he moved to Crystal Palace. But our sons didn’t want to move and neither did I. We are really happy here.’

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