He was a genuine guy. Later on, when it was just me and him he might have told me, ‘don’t ever say that again’, but that was in a joking way. He was a guy who wanted to do whatever he could to help the team.
I think every coach will have frustrations at some stage or another so you’re going to have to deal with it along the line and it’s about how you do deal with it. Every person is different, every player is too, so managing those players, with the expectations Robbie has, will be a challenge. But he knows the A-League, he knows the level and will understand what he can expect to get from players at this level.
For the last few seasons he played he was basically a second manager anyway. He was a senior player with lots of experience, he was an ear to go to for teammates and to help the gaffer as well. So he’s got a lot of experience with helping younger players, and leading a team. He’s been around the traps a long time and does a lot of social stuff, TV work, an ambassador role with Liverpool, so he has a lot of experience with a lot of different people from different areas. He’ll get tested without a doubt, but he’ll draw on all that experience to help him out.
His arrival was the world’s worst-kept secret. In football circles it was pretty clear that he was the favourite all along. Everyone I spoke to thought he was the choice from the start, so it was probably a case of them sorting out the contract.
We share the occasional text. Not very often. I usually throw him a question every time his name comes up for a job and I say, ‘is it you?” And he’ll say, ‘what do you think?’ This time he just didn’t answer me back. So I said, ‘it’s a yes then, is it?’, and I got nothing until yesterday when I sent him one saying ‘congratulations’ and he said ‘thanks’, so that was another thing that tipped me off!
ROAR WOULD BE A CHALLENGE FOR ANYONE
There are differing views in Australian football on this appointment. Some believe they should have gone with a local who knows what’s going on, and others are happy they’ve got a name like Robbie Fowler because it will bring eyes back to the A-League and possibly bring sponsorship and bigger name players who might want to come here to work with him.
You can see both sides of the coin. I know there are people who are concerned about Robbie’s inexperience as a coach but that’s down to him now – to learn on the job but also to get the right team in place to help him when he gets into those moments he may not be used to in the coaching role.
He is going to bring in Tony Grant who used to coach at Blackburn, as his assistant. Along with Roar interim coach Darren Davies, who knows the scene and the club, that could be the right blend.
The players will find Robbie’s the kind of guy who likes people to enjoy their football but I also think he’s a guy who expects as high a standard as possible at all times. He doesn’t mind a laugh and a joke but when it’s time to get the training done and you come out for games, then it’s serious stuff.
They should expect to see a guy who’s extremely serious at some times and likes to have a joke and a laugh at others.
As far as his managerial style goes – some coaches are very strict and like to distance themselves from the players. Robbie’s personality – he’s a very likeable jovial kind of guy. He’ll be more a guy who builds camaraderie – we’re all in this together – and I think he’ll be very close to the players.
The Roar would be a big challenge for anyone. We all know what’s happening with them at the moment, and it seems to be a downward spiral. They’ve been lucky in a way that the Mariners have been as poor as they have to take the heat off them. They’ve got a lot to change there.
A lot depends on the owner. Will Robbie be able to bring in the players he wants? Does he have a budget? Those kind of things. After some of the stories out of the club in the past couple of years about payments, etc etc, it’s one thing to bring in a high-profile coach but is he going to get the backing financially to go out and assemble a squad he thinks is capable of doing something? If that happens, then it’s just about bringing those players in and getting the club united again. He has the personality to win that battle.