Fowler's Roar 'shakeup' to launch coaching career
Robbie Fowler had nothing to prove to anyone when he came to the Hyundai A-League in 2009.
Ten years on, the man known as ‘God’ – the Liverpool legend and the Premier League’s seventh-highest scorer of all time - finds himself at the bottom of a managerial mountain-climb.
You don’t need to point out the irony to the Englishman. As a player, Fowler’s CV will stand the test of time.
But as a coach, the 44-year-old is a relative novice. Outside of a brief jaunt with MK Dons, his work within the Liverpool academy and a stint at Thai club Muangthong, where he served as player-coach, the Brisbane Roar job is Fowler’s real venture into top-level management.
It is part of the reason why Fowler’s appointment as Roar boss in April was met with a layer of scepticism. However, the former striker, who won the FA Cup and UEFA Cup with Liverpool and scored 163 Premier League goals, is ready to silence anyone doubting his ability make the transition from the playing field to the coaching dugout.
“I've always wanted to be involved in football forever,” Fowler told www.aleague.com.au.
“There was a time when I knew my playing days were almost numbered and that was scary.
“Now, I’m on the start of something big, something potentially huge. I've got years and years of being a successful manager to look forward to.
“And as much as people go down the ‘lack of experience’ route, the ‘he’s not done it before’… I’ve always felt confident in what I can do.
“Just look at the league last year. Mark Rudan at Wellington Phoenix, Steve Corica at Sydney FC, both relatively new managers who have done well. I don’t see why people would throw the inexperienced tag at me when others have been inside the same boat.”
It was always a matter of when, not if, Fowler would take up coaching after the end of his playing career.
He worked in TV punditry and travelled the world in an ambassadorial role for Liverpool post-retirement, but those roles made clear that his obsession for football could only be satisfied through hours on the football pitch.
So after biding his time in the Liverpool academy, and finishing his top-level coaching badges, the Brisbane job was the perfect chance for Fowler to begin the next chapter of his footballing journey.
This, of course, despite Fowler taking the post at arguably the lowest point of the club’s proud history. Three-time Champions Roar were a catastrophe last season, conceding a record 71 goals in a ninth-place finish, all while gossip over the club’s vacant coaching position following the resignation of John Aloisi raged on.
Put simply, the club looked in need of divine intervention. Perhaps this makes Brisbane and Fowler a match made in heaven.
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“It massively excited me,” he said of learning the Roar job was available. “I never thought once coming into this job, oh, ‘I’ve got a lot to do here’. I’ve relished it.
“From an outsider’s view, there needed to be a little bit of a shakeup. I was more than confident of being able to do that.
“Results will dictate whether I'm right or wrong, but I felt that was the right way forward. I felt as though it was needed to be done, I needed to get my stamp on the way the club was run.”
Just as his transition from player to coach had a degree of certainty to it, there is an element of destiny to Fowler’s return to Australia.
Fowler maintains he has always had an affinity for the Hyundai A-League, and after the end of his tenures with North Queensland Fury and Perth Glory, he has been flying the flag for the competition in the UK, whether it be watching during the early morning breakfast hours or in the BT Sports Studio with former players.
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“I enjoy everything about Australia,” he said. “I think the A-League in general is a very, very good league. At times we don't give it the credit it deserves.
“For me, it's a top league with good players and good teams. I loved everything about it.
“What we have to remember over here is that it’s a relatively new league. It's only been around 15 years, so the potential is there to go and get bigger and better.”
Fowler’s focus now the 2019/20 campaign, his first in full-time coaching, and galvanising a Brisbane squad that has seen 16 players go out, and 16 players come in.
If only the new Roar players had a figure nearby from which to draw inspiration.
“They probably appreciate and respect what you've done,” he admits.
“But they'll probably appreciate and respect me a bit more once we get it right on the football pitch.”
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