Has he finally found something worth living for? Robbie Fowler has travelled all around the world to Australia and Perth Glory. Neil Sherwin looks at a promising relationship.
It was Iain Dowie, Crystal Palace manager at the time, who exposed the football world to ‘bouncebackability’, and the much used phrase couldn’t be more applicable to Perth Glory this week.
After a whirlwind start to the season that saw them top the A-League after five rounds, Glory were brought crashing back down to earth last Sunday with a 1-0 defeat at home to Gold Coast United. This weekend they take on the Newcastle Jets in the first of two tricky back to back away games, and will be looking to get over the surprise defeat that ended their eight game unbeaten run.
"Obviously losing your undefeated record and losing at home is very disappointing but we didn't deserve to win,” said manager Dave Mitchell after the game.
"We had too many players probably not at the races and that's the most concerning point. They (Gold Coast) did their homework, they did very well and stopped us playing our natural game and we weren't good enough to overcome that."
The club’s notoriously passionate supporters have been almost giddy with excitement after the great start to the year, though they come under criticism in the past fortnight for foul mouthed chants orchestrated by The Shed, a covered terrace behind one of the goals at nib Stadium.
The recruitment of former Liverpool and England star Robbie Fowler was a massive coup for a club looking to build on a solid 2009 campaign which saw them qualify for the A-League finals series for the first time. Attendances have increased steadily on last year and show no sign of waning four home games into the season. In 2009, the average home gate at nib Stadium was 9205, up from 7942 in 2008. So far this year, there hasn’t been a crowd of less than 10,000 and a club record 16,019 were present to witness Fowler’s debut on opening day against the North Queensland Fury. He has formed a solid partnership with Socceroo Mile Sterjovski, and the pair have five goals between them so far.
Fowler isn’t the first ex-Premier League star to pull on the purple of Perth. Former Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers defender Andy Todd was the club’s Most Glorious Player for 2009, while Brian Deane also had a spell in Western Australia back in 2005. That same year, former Liverpool and England midfielder Steve McMahon had an unsuccessful tenure in charge of Glory, and West Ham and Birmingham City old boy Stan Lazaridis ended his career in the city of his birth.
Having finished fifth in the home and away table last season, boss Mitchell set about strengthening the squad. As well as adding Fowler, Glory also recruited Josh Mitchell and Michael Baird from Romanian side Universitatea Craiova. However, both were made to wait to make their debut following complications over international clearance. When Baird finally managed to get onto the park, he immediately became embroiled in controversy when he was deemed to have dived to win a penalty against Melbourne Heart. He was subsequently banned for two matches by the match review panel but will return to the squad for this weekend’s game.
One of the club’s most promising youngsters is right back Scott Neville, who two seasons ago was playing in the WA State League for Sorrento. He has made the seamless transition to A-League football and has this week been called up to the Australian under 23 squad for a tour of Vietnam in preparation for Olympic Games qualifiers which begin in February next year.
“I’m delighted to be named in my first Australian squad,” the said 21-year old.
“Obviously it’s disappointing to miss two vital games with the club but the chance to represent Australia is a goal I’ve wanted to achieve.
“I’m extremely thankful to Dave Mitchell, my team mates and Perth Glory for the opportunities I’ve been given with the senior team.”
Last season’s finals defeat to the Wellington Phoenix on penalties, while disappointing, has only increased the hunger within the playing group to win the club its first A-League Premiership.
With Fowler leading the line in front of a solid supporting cast, the good times may not be too far ahead.
Neil writes regularly for IBWM and is a co-editor of the excellent Back Page Football.