Brisbane Roar’s raid on the UK’s lower leagues has delivered players hand-picked to succeed, insists the three-time A-League champions’ vice-chairman Chris Fong.
Despite skepticism from some quarters over the influx of five signings from Britain’s less glamorous tiers, Fong contends that rookie coach Robbie Fowler thought long and hard about each and every import as he bids to reignite former glories at Suncorp Stadium.
If the 2-0 FFA Cup victory over Sydney FC is any guide, Fowler is on the right path with the likes of Tom Aldred, Aaron Amadi-Holloway, Jay O’Shea, Max Crocombe and Macaulay Gillesphey in his squad.
Fong certainly believes so, explaining that continuity of purpose and a limited timeline were key factors in Fowler’s calculations in constructing a new squad from almost ground zero.
“Robbie wanted to bring in players from a particular place - in this case the UK,” he said.
“In terms of continuity and getting an understanding of how he wants them to play and getting things to gel faster, he thought it was the best way to go, rather than getting a player from South America or one from Eastern Europe or wherever.
“Robbie has had his eye out for a long time on potential signings - it’s not as if this was a last-minute recruitment rush.
“We worked with Robbie for a long time before we announced he was on board. He was already putting in a lot of effort and groundwork behind the scenes in a market he knows very well.”
Fong predicts that the performances of the imports might raise eye-brows back in the UK over how easily they were spirited away.
“There’s been a bit of negative media and certain connotations about how these players from the lower leagues in Britain are they going to stand up in Australia,” Fong added.
“But my view is that we’re opening it up to a different mindset. There are a lot of players in the UK who don’t get the opportunities they maybe deserve.
“The standard is excellent and I think you’ll find some people and clubs back in Britain will look at them and say ‘how did we miss this guy or that guy? How come we didn’t scout them?’
“I think it will create a lot of opportunities for these players and they will potentially see their careers go to another level.
“That’s only my personal view. Time will tell and we will see.”
With the wisdom of 26 years in the game, Liverpool legend Fowler, 44, will show he has a Midas touch in connecting with his players, claims Fong.
“He knows how to manage players and he knows how to get into their heads,” he said.
“He also has very good people around him in his assistant Tony Grant and Darren Davis is there of course and his knowledge of the local landscape will be invaluable.
“Robbie had a vision. He sold us that vision and he’s doing things he said he would and we are very supportive of him.
“He is setting a fantastic standard in the way he operates and he is also a total gentleman and a serious pro.
“Of course there’s a lot of work to do, and the competition hasn’t started yet.
“But we are very happy with the direction it’s going.
“He’s also hugely focused on bringing on and developing young Australians talent - as you saw with the line up against Sydney last week.
“That’s a massive and positive development for us as a club.”