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Will Robbie fall fowl at the Roar?

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Roar Rookie
4th August, 2019
33

On Wednesday evening, the Robbie Fowler revolution will be officially underway when the Brisbane Roar travel to reigning premiers Sydney FC in the round of 32 of the FFA Cup.

The tie represents the hardest possible start for Fowler and his new look charges, but what can Roar fans and the Australian footballing public expect from this rookie manager?

Fowler brings some bona-fide footballing royalty to this year’s Hyundai A-League. He scored almost 200 goals in the red of Liverpool, where he is still revered by the Anfield faithful and affectionately known as ‘God’.

However, in terms of his coaching credentials, Fowler’s record is far more modest. He only had a brief stint in charge of Thai outfit Muangthong United as player manager before hanging up his boots in 2012.

Some doubters claim this lack of experience is a major question mark over his suitability as another foreigner taking up a job that could be going to a home-grown coach. Upon his unveiling in Brisbane, this perceived lack of know-how was shot down by the man himself, pointing to his UEFA Pro License and many years coaching in Liverpool’s academy.

Fowler has been on the hunt for a management job for some time. There were applications back in England at Leeds United and Bristol Rovers without success.

Having seen his contemporaries Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard land high-profile roles after their playing days with relative ease, perhaps Fowler may hold some justified resentment – and a burning desire to prove people wrong – at having to travel over 15,000 kilometres to secure his first major coaching post.

New Roar coach Robbie Fowler.

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Of course, he is no stranger to these shores, with stints at the now-defunct North Queensland Fury then Perth Glory towards the twilight of his career.

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His arrival in Brisbane has already lifted the malaise that had hung over the club following last season’s miserable campaign. Expect to see a spike in attendances, which have dipped to an average of under 10,000 during the last two seasons.

In terms of playing personnel, there has been a huge overhaul with many of last season’s squad departing and 12 new arrivals. Many of these having been plucked from the lower leagues in England.

But it’s a capture from within Australia that has caught the eye. Irish striker Roy O’Donovan has joined after being a consistent scorer in his spells with Central Coast Mariners and Newcastle Jets. Fowler will hope the 33-year-old can continue this vein of form in a Roar jersey.

New defensive recruit Tom Aldred will be tasked with the responsibility of shoring up a back line that leaked a huge 71 goals last season – the most in the competition. The 28-year-old stopper makes the move after a spell in Scotland with Motherwell.

One survivor from last season’s debacle is forward Dylan Wenzel-Halls. The youngster was a rare highlight in a season to forget, and it will be interesting to see whether the former Western Pride front man will continue to flourish under Fowler’s tutelage.

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In terms of predicting the Roar’s prospects for the upcoming campaign, it’s a tough call. Fowler will be hoping that his new signings are able to gel quickly and entice those stay-away fans back.

We should expect see a lot of attacking flair on show. Goals have flowed in pre-season but defence is the key.

Fowler has brought in former Everton midfielder Tony Grant as his No.2, hoping he can shore up the defensive frailties that cost them so dearly last year.

If that happens, perhaps a top-five berth is a realistic target, but let’s not forget this move represents a huge gamble not just for the Roar, but the man himself.

Should he fail here, it would be hard to see him landing another job in the future whether that be in the UK or abroad.

But if he can bring back the glory days to Suncorp Stadium, it could be a springboard for him to move on to even bigger things.

Australian fans and the wider footballing world will be watching closely.