If there’s one thing Robbie Fowler has done during his short time in Brisbane, it’s rekindle interest in a club based in one of the A-League’s biggest markets.
Hands up if you were surprised by Brisbane Roar’s performance in their 1-1 draw with Perth Glory a fortnight ago? I certainly was. But not because I thought the Roar would struggle to get anything from their trip to Perth. I’d watched a few of their preseason games, so the performance of players like Macaulay Gillesphey and Brad Inman didn’t come as a shock to me.
What surprised me was that in just 95 minutes Fowler managed to accomplish something Brisbane Roar failed to achieve for the entirety of last season: he made changes during the match that positively influenced the outcome.
If you watch the Roar’s equalising goal, you’ll see three players involved who are crucial to the Queensland club’s season.
It’s captain Tom Aldred who wins the ball in a one-on-one challenge with Neil Kilkenny.
It’s midfielder Jay O’Shea who drops a yard away from the last line of defenders to give himself space before taking a touch and floating an inch-perfect cross over the top of the Glory backline.
And it’s substitute Aaron Amadi-Holloway, who terrorised a tired Glory defence in an 11-minute cameo off the bench, who heads the ball across for Roy O’Donovan to bundle home.
Aldred. O’Shea. Amadi-Holloway. Who among us can honestly say we’d heard of any of them before they joined the Roar?
And in an era of hot takes and social media banter, watching the online critics write off Brisbane’s chances before a ball had even been kicked was as predictable as VAR. But here’s the thing: Fowler has never gone out of his way to label the likes of O’Shea or Amadi-Holloway as potential game changers.
Short of announcing the tough-as-teak Aldred as the Roar’s new captain, he hasn’t really singled out any players at all.
And that’s the thing about this managerial version of Robbie Fowler. He’s essentially the opposite of everything you might expect him to be.
Calm. Methodical. Meticulous. These are not the sort of adjectives that spring to mind when we think of Fowler’s thrill-a-minute playing career.
But any thoughts the Liverpudlian was here for a holiday were dispelled the second he sent out a completely new-look team capable of holding the reigning premiers to a draw in Round 1.
And while Fowler’s profile has certainly sparked some interest from those who remember him for his Liverpool playing days, what needs to happen for the A-League to build some credibility in Britain is for Fowler to prove himself as a Liverpool manager-in-waiting with some success Down Under.
The draw with Perth Glory was a promising start, but the real test starts tonight against Melbourne Victory in front of a big home crowd at Suncorp Stadium.
Roar officials are expecting a decent roll-up for the first home game of the season, with Fowler having rekindled plenty of interest in a club that has been in the doldrums for the past couple of seasons.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that when Brisbane Roar won the last of their three A-League championships in 2014 they had one of the highest average attendances in the competition.
Just under 22,000 fans saw them smash Sydney FC in their first home game that season and they knocked off Melbourne Victory at home in front of nearly 18,000 supporters later on in the campaign.
It’s not too late to get back to those numbers, even if it requires some patience from fans.
Win, lose or draw tonight, the Roar’s season won’t be defined by one result.
But it’s hardly a stretch to suggest that a strong Brisbane Roar is great for the city and good for the A-League as well.
In God we trust.