The Robbie Fowler-led revolution at Brisbane Roar will be as much about creating next gen stars as attracting quality imports.
The Liverpool legend has pledged to develop a bevy of new talent, as well as crafting those youngsters already in the Roar system, in his quest to reboot the fallen three-time A-League champions.
Having made the first of his 369 appearances for the Reds aged 18 back in 1994, Fowler follows the credo ‘if you’re good enough, you’re old enough’.
With the young brigade of Dylan Wenzel-Halls, Jay Barnett, Aaron Reardon, Connor O'Toole, Izaack Powell, and Zach Duncan all getting varying tastes of first team action last season, the foundations are already in place for Fowler to build on.
The club’s two-star Academy has been up and running for 18 months, and Fowler’s focus will be on turning it into the country’s most prolific talent production assembly line.
“Both the club and I are strongly focused on attracting promising young Australian football talent and developing them into stars of the future,” Fowler told The World Game.
“The aim is to attract the best young footballers from throughout Queensland and across Australia into our program and develop them from there.”
The Roar, who finished a disappointing ninth last season in a campaign partially derailed by the mid-season exit of coach John Aloisi, have been criticised in the past for leaning too heavily on ageing players unable to meet the physical demands of the A-League.
That won’t be the Fowler way, with the new coach committed to blending youthful exuberance with craftily selected imports on the right side of 30 who may not be getting the game time they crave back in Europe.
“The club is heavily investing in the development of its youth footballers, and that’s pretty evident when you see the number of youngsters who got first team minutes last season and also by the success of our Young Roar squad who won the National Youth League title earlier this year,” he added.
“I broke through as a teenager myself at Liverpool, and I want to give the youngsters at our club every opportunity to do the same thing, and to build long careers in the game.”
Only the Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers offer free scholarships to kids, but sometimes even the best and brightest get away.
A case in point is emerging midfielder Duncan, 18, who scored once in his four appearances last season, and was offered a scholarship.
Terms, though, could not be agreed and he departed the club last month, much to the disappointment of vice-chairman Chris Fong and the coaching staff.
It’s a scenario Fong and owners the Bakrie Group are keen to avoid in the future.
“You invest heavily in the Academy ... you don’t expect to make money out of it. In fact, you lose money out of it,” he said.
“But maybe there needs to be a tweak in the rules so that the clubs have the right to hang on to players that we invest in and not lose them to other clubs without any fall back.
“Zach was one of those players we worked on developing. We were fully expecting him to come on board and then at the last minute he’s departed.
“We’re totally committed to providing a platform for youngsters to flourish here, and Robbie’s in full alignment with that.
“That’s one of the big boxes he ticked when it came to picking a new coach.”
The club faced some blow-back for not renewing the contract of former Joeys skipper Joe Caletti, one of 14 who exited Suncorp Stadium at season’s end.
But Fong explained the rationale in releasing the 20-year-old midfielder after three years in their system.
“It’s not that Joe wasn’t a good player,” he explained. “We just didn’t feel we could be fair to him and give him that on-going match time he could probably get at another club.”