Fowler-Ferguson fury sparks coaching merry-go-round

If North Queensland Fury officials had a sense of humour, they’d have been blasting that most annoying of Clash songs Should I Stay Or Should I Go? over the tannoy as Robbie Fowler’s side ran out for their recent Round 25 clash with the Newcastle Jets.

The match had already been postponed after Tropical Cyclone Olga dumped a deluge of rain on the Dairy Farmer’s Stadium pitch.

Before the rearranged game, all the talk focused on whether Robbie Fowler would return to the starting XI following his sensational bust-up with coach Ian Ferguson.

A week earlier, Ferguson had asked Fowler to start on the bench for the clash with Brisbane Roar – only for the former Liverpool legend to refuse, and in doing so kick off a very public spat played out largely through the media.

The sight of the A-League’s most high-profile player sitting high in the stands made every major news broadcast in the country, and rookie first team coach Ferguson suddenly found the glare of the media spotlight tough to bear.

The aftermath of the spat was as humorous as it was farcical, as desperate Fury officials attempted to play down the rift by claiming that Fowler and Ferguson had simply suffered a “miscommunication” on the eve of the match.

That didn’t stop reports emanating from the club that Fowler had subsequently demanded Ferguson’s removal – something that Fury officials were quick to deny, while Fowler himself later claimed that he was “embarrassed” by his conduct during the affair.

But if Fowler was contrite over his role, the sting in the tail was reserved for Ian Ferguson, who looks almost certain to be out of a job come the end of the season.

Despite backing their coach publicly, Fury officials were privately said to be furious with his decision to drop the club’s marquee player in favour of playing a 4-1-4-1 formation which featured lone striker Dyron Daal at the point of the attack.

Instead of Fowler, it seems to be Ferguson headed for the exit door, as Fury officials line up a move to replace him with his former mentor and current Central Coast Mariners coach Lawrie McKinna.

All smiles - but it's gone wrong now for Ferguson and Fowler

Both Daal and Fowler started up front in North Queensland’s midweek 2-1 win over the Newcastle Jets.

But “Fowlergate” has cast a shadow over the Townville club’s inaugural A-League campaign.

They’ll at least avoid finishing bottom of the table – that indignity is reserved for Adelaide United – but for former Rangers midfielder Ferguson, a maiden A-League campaign as a first-team coach has proved a baptism of fire.

The same cannot be said for popular Sydney FC coach Vitezslav Lavicka, although the Czech tactician was no doubt equally despondent after his side went down 1-0 away at strugglers Brisbane Roar last time out.

The Roar had former Dutch international Patrick Kluivert on the bench as part of his coaching “work experience,” although most A-League fans could be forgiven for preferring to see the 33-year-old on the pitch.

At least Kluivert looked happy to be at the club, which is more than can be said for Danny Tiatto, who quickly became the latest big-name casualty of new coach Ange Postecoglu’s axe-wielding regime.

Tiatto followed Liam Reddy, Craig Moore, Charlie Miller and Bob Malcolm out the door, although he did so in his own inimitable fashion by blasting Postecoglu in the press on the eve of the match with Sydney, prompting Roar officials to predictably point the way to the nearest exit.

It’s a wonder the A-League has any coaches left, after a season punctuated by player dissent and simmering rancour winds its way towards the finals - the regular season ends next weekend.

By mid-March only one coach will be left celebrating as he holds the A-League’s “toilet bowl” trophy aloft, leaving nine other disgruntled coaches wondering whether it was worth all the hassle.

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