Brisbane Roar vice-chairman Chris Fong has vowed to appoint a homegrown coach to replace Robbie Fowler, as he picks up the pieces from the Liverpool legend’s “disappointing” departure.
Characterising Fowler’s tenure at the club - which ultimately lasted just 24 matches - as intentionally “short to medium term”, Fong said the long-range goal was always to source a local successor and that plan would now be “brought forward”.
Fong confirmed on Monday that Fowler, 45, and his assistant Tony Grant would not be returning to Queensland after exiting Australia back in March to be with their families in the UK during the COVID-19 suspension.
“Robbie had a two-year contract with the potential for an extension, but we always knew his longer term ambitions lay back in the UK,” said Fong.
“The fact that his family never moved out here demonstrated that.
“The plan with Robbie was working well but we’ve now had to bring things forward more quickly than we would have thought.
“Our intention was to eventually appoint a local based coach and we’re doing that across the board at the club anyway.
“We’ll make announcements as we move forward (on Fowler’s replacement).”
The double act of former interim coach Darren Davis and ex-Roar player Warren Moon will take charge for the remainder of the season, which is scheduled to re-start in July.
The pair have already been running training sessions for a week, with Fong adding the club would make further announcements on how the club “manages the competition” over the next couple of weeks.
Fowler, who stated last week that the club didn’t see his return as “a priority”, is believed to have held concerns over a raft of issues including player contract renewals, the welfare of his family and ongoing uncertainty over the future direction of the A-League.
His decision not to return has deflated Fong after the Anfield great overcame a rocky start to steer Brisbane to fourth on the ladder.
“It is disappointing - it’s probably related to health matters (COVID-19) and what’s happened to the world,” added Fong.
“It’s a long way from family but what to do? Clearly England is his home.
“We were expecting him back but it just didn’t work out. Try putting yourself in his shoes: leaving family, coming all the way back for four regular games and then the finals, and before that you sit in a hotel room in quarantine for 14 days.
“It’s not like this is normal for people. In the grand scheme of things there’s been a rethink of everything and I think a lot of people are having to rethink how they’re managing their lives.
“If there was no COVID then we’d have finished the season already and would be coming back to training now. There wouldn’t have been a problem.
“To me, everything is related to the pandemic and you can’t point the finger at anybody.”
Fong said Fowler had restored “stability” during his brief reign, adding: “There’s a pathway set for the future now.
“Obviously we’re having to bring in a replacement earlier and to shift things forward.
“There are a lot of changes in the football landscape right now and most of it’s positive.
“Robbie did a fantastic job and did everything we expected.
“It was a good relationship and there were no issues. It’s just unfortunate that circumstances changed.
“Robbie and Tony brought their flavour and knowledge to Australia. We gave Robbie an opportunity but it was a win-win for both of us.”
Up-and-coming Central Coast Mariners U-23s coach Nick Montgomery might be an early contender to replace Fowler.
The former Sheffield United midfielder turned Mariners legend guided the club to second behind Sydney FC in the NYL last season, and is just about to acquire a prestigious UEFA Pro License.
A naturalised Australian after eight years in the country, Montgomery, 38, has attracted some interest back in the UK for his exploits and has an enviable network of contacts.
With Brisbane looking to boost their credentials as a development club, Montgomery’s emerging track record with kids could aid his cause.