Fowler swaps exit talk for Fury coaching role

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It’s a cut-throat caper, this football business. One minute you’re coaching the A-League’s highest profile player, and the next minute he’s angling for your job.

To suggest that there’s no love lost between North Queensland Fury’s out-going coach Ian Ferguson and star striker Robbie Fowler would be an understatement of epic proportions.

Fowler clearly took issue with Ferguson’s abrasive coaching style, but the matter really came to a head in January when the Glaswegian gaffer attempted to bench the former Liverpool striker – with disastrous results.

No doubt expecting to be backed to the hilt over his decision, Ferguson instead felt the full weight of the Australian football public come crashing down upon him, as even his own club indulged in some thinly-veiled snipes about his managerial nous.

The tense standoff was eventually resolved after Fowler agreed to continue on as the Fury’s marquee player, however the rancour clearly remained.

When it became apparent that the Townsville-based side were in serious financial trouble, Fowler seized his chance.

Ferguson has been rammed out the exit door with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, and Fowler has subsequently offered to take a drastic pay cut and stay on as player-coach for next season.

Whether North Queensland would even survive until next season has been the hot topic in recent weeks, after major financial backer Don Matheson stepped aside amid claims that he had lost around £1.8 million investing in the club.

Many expected the Fury to go under – especially after a local whip-around failed to raise the funds required to keep the club afloat – only for Football Federation Australia to step in and ensure that the Townsville side would take part in the 2010/11 campaign.

At various stages of the A-League’s six year existence, the FFA has now provided funds to the defunct New Zealand Knights, Perth Glory, Adelaide United, Melbourne Victory, Central Coast Mariners and Brisbane Roar in a competition that is clearly struggling to capture the general public’s imagination.

Bankrolled by billionaire Frank Lowy, the FFA will oversee the entry of two new clubs in the form of Melbourne Heart and Sydney Rovers over the next two seasons, with the former recently announcing the signing of ex-Socceroos striker John Aloisi from Sydney FC.

But it’s in Townsville where most of the concerns remain, after virtually the entire squad were informed that their services would no longer be required.

Only Fowler looks likely to stick around, with the Liverpudlian seemingly sensing an opportunity to carve out the beginnings of a coaching career.

The new season will kick off in late July, and the Fury have until then to assemble a viable squad, with Fowler the leading candidate to take over as player-coach for North Queensland’s second A-League campaign.

They’ll hope to do better than the first, after constant financial concerns and a fractured dressing room overshadowed some decent performances on the pitch.

At times the North Queensland saga appears to have been scripted straight from a dodgy Australian soapie, and confusion remains over the exact status of the embattled club.

From “extinct” to h“back-in-business” within a matter of weeks, the only thing North Queensland needs now is some cash, an entirely new squad, and about 10,000 more fans to regularly pile through the gates of their Dairy Farmer’s Stadium home.

Other than that they look sorted – not least because in Robbie Fowler they’ve got a ready-made replacement coach. All he needs now are some players.

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