Robbie Fowler’s budding coaching career is on course to ultimately mirror his decorated playing days, according to Brisbane Roar’s vice-chairman Chris Fong.
The Liverpool legend took out January’s A-League’s Coach of the Month accolade, as Brisbane gained momentum after a stuttering start to his reign.
And Fong, whose board selected Fowler from 150 hopefuls for the job, believes the rookie mentor is quickly ascending the foothills on an inexorable arc towards the football summit.
In years to come, Fong believes Fowler will look back wistfully and credit Brisbane with punching the tickets on a journey which will eventually lead back to the UK and bigger and better things.
“Robbie’s beginning to get a bit of recognition and I think this is just the start of something that we will probably be hearing about for the next 20 years,” prophesied Fong.
“You heard about him for 20 years as a player and I think certainly, if the boxes continue to be ticked - and we are not there yet - you may be hearing about him for the next 20 years as a coach also.
“And that won’t be in Australia because he will be back in his home country.
“But it will be great that he started his career with us.￼￼
“Perhaps some people might think that’s taking it all a bit far but as far as we’re concerned it’s all going according to plan.”
Fowler garnered an overwhelming 89 per cent of the vote from the fan poll to eclipse Sydney FC coach Steve Corica (7 per cent) and Perth Glory’s Tony Popovic (4 per cent), as Brisbane picked up three wins and a draw before finishing the month with 1-0 loss to ladder leaders Sydney FC.
The run has them two points off the playoff spots going into Saturday night’s clash against fourth-placed Adelaide United at Suncorp Stadium.
Fong knew that handing the mantle to a wet-behind-the-ears Fowler was a calculated risk and progress wouldn’t necessarily be linear.
“Of course there are sometimes two steps forward and one step back, and there are disappointments, but that’s to be expected,”he added.
“There’s no difference in that regard to any coach.￼
“When we went through the recruitment process there was over 150 applicants. We went with Robbie and Robbie had a specific plan.￼
“He knew the competition well from his time here previously as a player and that was a big plus.
“There had been some upheaval and disarray in the football department and we needed to take a medium to long-term view, and Robbie has provided that.
“As a first-time coach he needs to settle and find his way. Any coach needs to make some decisions￼ and won’t always get it right.
“He’s adjusted things a little during the transfer window and made some changes (most notably the return of veteran striker Roy O’Donovan to Newcastle Jets).”
Fong insisted that despite a recent history of financial tumult at the club, Fowler, 44, had not been unduly constrained by fiscal imperatives.
“He’s working to what he wants and there have been no restraints on budgets,” Fong stated.
“We haven’t pulled the reins in at all. That’s never been an issue.￼
“Bringing in a marquee signing was never part of it - our major priority his producing and nurturing our own homegrown players.
“That said, Robbie also wanted to bring in those five visa players from the UK as part of his overall plan because of his knowledge of the market there, and he did that.”
Whilst Fong was fully aware of Fowler’s 24/7 football existence before bringing him on board, even he has been shocked by the extent to which the man they call God lives and breathes the game in all its minutiae.
“The way he carries himself, in the way he thinks it’s purely as a football person,” he added.
“He eats drinks and thinks the game 24 hours. It’s quite astonishing really and you have to respect that.￼
“He’s got the dressing room support of the playing group and the entire club behind him.”