Thursday, September 17, 2009
Fowler's divine intervention
Like every other high profile signing before him on the wrong side of 30, Robbie Fowler had his A-League obituary published and televised before he even had a chance to tuck into a half-time orange.
Terms like 'has-been', 'overweight' and 'over the hill' were all used to describe the Liverpool legend when he arrived in Australia earlier this year. Many were convinced that he was purely visiting to add an olive tint to his pasty white appearance.
Niggling injuries during pre-season ruled him out of many friendlies, exacerbating the situation, and it appeared the man once revered as "God" by the red half of Merseyside would struggle to make an impact. Some reports went as far as claiming Fowler's family had failed to settle in Townsville and the striker was linked with a move back to England.
Six rounds into the A-League season, the sounds of crickets can be heard coming from those quarters; those quarters that had effectively drawn a line through Robbie Fowler's name and plonked it next to that of Mark Viduka.
But there isn't silence. Oh no. If anything, the noise level has increased a few decibels, as Fowler's name is on everyone's lips - for all the right reasons.
The Englishman currently occupies second place on the goalscorers chart with four goals, three of those recognised in consecutive weeks as the goal of the round. Not a bad effort - and a feat no other player has managed to achieve in the A-League's short history.
Each of the three world-class strikes served as a stark reminder of the ability which made him one of the greats of English football. Against Adelaide United three weeks ago, Fowler applied the finishing touch - a wonderfully timed half-volley - to a well-worked move, while his composed strike against Brisbane Roar a week later came courtesy of his deftness of touch.
His 25-metre lob against Sydney FC at the weekend, however, has thus far topped the lot. Paul Henderson's route one clearance found the loosely marked Fowler, who instantly worked out his angles and required trajectory as the ball bounced in sync with his stride. Then, nonchalantly, he sent the ball on its way over the head of the hapless Clint Bolton, who would've had better luck guessing the correct lottery numbers than saving Fowler's effort.
The goal capped a fitting night for the 34-year-old, who in some ways won the bragging rights in the so-called 'Battle of the Marquees' between himself and Sydney FC striker, John Aloisi. He even received a standing ovation from both sets of supporters when he was substituted in the 85th minute.
But it's not only the manner in which he's scoring goals that has people excited; it's the way he's playing and how he goes about his football.
Fowler is very much a team player (I'm not too sure you could say that about many other strikers). He's a proven superstar in every sense of the word, but when he steps onto the pitch, the onus is on the team - not his ego.
He puts in the hard yards and does the donkeywork rather than delegating the task to a player of lesser profile. He ventures into defence to collect the ball as opposed to parking himself in his attacking third, waiting for the ball to be delivered to his feet on a silver platter.
It's a far cry from what the doomsayers were preaching during pre-season. While his physical condition was called in to question the moment he touched down in Australia, Fowler has worked hard to regain full fitness, and it's fair to say that goal has been achieved. After all, he's only missed 16 minutes of A-League action this season and is looking as sharp, fresh and hungry as he did in Round 1.
His personal revival in form is responsible for North Queensland's change in fortunes and has transformed the club into a major drawcard of the competition - 17,000 people packed the Sydney Football Stadium last weekend to witness Fowler's divine intervention.
It's still early days, but I hope there's a decent supply of oranges up North as "God" could get a little thirsty performing so many miracles.