Tuesday, October 03, 2023

The latest football news from 90 Minutes Online

Robbie Fowler The Football Manager

(Robbie Fowler with Brisbane Roar (via Courier Mail)As Steven Gerrard continues to pick up plaudits for his work since heading north of the border to have a crack at management, what of one of his former team-mates? Outside the regular readership of his column for the Sunday Mirror it’s doubtful that many would even know that Robbie Fowler has gone even further out & is taking on the challenge of getting Brisbane Roar firing again- one of Australia's A-League's oldest clubs predating even the system they play in!



He first arrived on Australian soil to play for North Queensland Fury in February of 2009, following a short spell with Blackburn. Heralded as one of the first big names to sign up with four years having passed since the formation of the league itself, as a successor to the former National Soccer League. By 2009/10 he had been named captain- but things swiftly went downhill after he reportedly took exception to being named among the substitutes for a game against his current employers...


April 2010 saw his spell in Queensland come to an end as he signed for Perth Glory, staying at HBF Park for a year before packing his bags for Thailand & Muangthong United. His stay there giving him a first taste of life away from the pitch as he was made player/coach. Again he lasted around a year, leaving following the appointment of Slaviša Jokanović as manager.


But a second chance arrived in April of last year when the Roar came calling. Perhaps it was the chance to revive a sleeping giant that lured him back- a shared history with what was then Queensland Lions revealing something of the size of the club itself. Founded by Dutch immigrants as Hollandia-Inala, they would compete as Queensland Roar during the inaugural A-League season of 2005/06 before switching to Brisbane in time for 2008/09.


Back then, the arrival of former Australia national team boss Frank Farina brought with it a period of relative success as he led them first to within a whisker of the league final before going one better the next season & actually reaching it- though they lost to the Newcastle Jets. Things would come crashing down when Farina was sacked following an initial suspension for “driving under the influence”...


Another former Socceroos gaffer was eventually given the task of picking up the pieces. Ange Pestecoglou parachuted in as a permanent successor midway through 2009/10 & given time to really turn things around the next season, a league & cup double was the reward for replacing veterans with relative youth, a few old heads kept on.


He was also in charge for their first Asian Champions League campaign- Australia having switched to the Asian confederation from Oceania in 2006.


Several commentators had already concluded that the only way for the country to progress on the football field was to make such a move- Oceania not being granted an automatic World Cup qualifying spot often cited as one of the big motivating factors.


One of their perhaps ironic final acts under the Oceania banner was to then qualify for the 2006 World Cup, beating Uruguay in a play-off!


A further bit of history was made that night as the Aussies became the first team to qualify via penalty shoot-out, a crowd of 82,698 witnessing the feat & no doubt a few sore heads the following morning after John Aloisi scored the winner, the former Portsmouth & Coventry man booking their ticket.


Placed into Group F for the 2006 tournament alongside Brazil, Croatia & now fellow travellers Japan, Aloisi scored again on a momentous day for football as the Japanese were swept aside 3-1, Tim Cahill getting the other two.


Defeat to Brazil was followed by a draw with Croatia, enough for Guus Hiddink to be able to lead his men into the first knockout round where they were dispatched by Italy.


The majority of the team selected to represent their country at its first large-scale international tournament then went to a maiden Asian Cup, Japan gaining a measure of revenge by dumping them out on penalties in the quarter finals!


It would seem that the decision to switch continents had an immediate pay-off as the Socceroos then made it to the next World Cup in 2010, topping a qualification group also containing China, Iraq & Qatar to earn a place in Group D with Germany, Ghana & Serbia, the Germans making light work of the first group game in swatting them aside 4-0. A draw with Ghana & win over Serbia meant there would be no repeat performance of four years prior, due to the misfortune of an inferior goal difference to the African nation.


Pestecoglu's time in the top job started with an overhaul similar to that which he would undertake with the Roar- the so called golden generation of 2006 eased out though Cahill would survive, at least initially, & score the first goal of his reign in a 1-0 friendly win over Costa Rica.


Three defeats from three group matches at 2014's World Cup- to Chile, the Dutch in a thrilling game no doubt followed closely by Roar fans with an interest in their club's long history, & then Spain ensured that once again 2006 would not be bettered.


The next year saw John Aloisi take the reins in Brisbane, leading them to third place in his first season & finishing within just a point of champions Adelaide. The resulting foray into the AFC Champions League didn't end nearly half as well, as they won just one group match & the undoubted lowlight coming in a 6-0 loss to Ulsan Hyundai.


Perhaps inevitably, the following season threatened to be derailed by fan concerns over what was seen as poor player recruitment. Middlesbrough fans no doubt sympathising upon learning that Massimo Maccarone was among the new arrivals at Lang Park!


Unrest which then spilt over to the terraces as the oldest fans group, The Den, withdrew its active support as of January last year- quite the backdrop for Fowler to walk into in the April. The Roar currently sit in sixth spot in the league now Robbie has had time to put his own stamp on the team, although it remains to be seen if the former Spice Boy can inspire them back to the top of the A-League.


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