They say a picture tells a thousand words, and the picture of Perth Glory legend Jamie Harnwell leaving the field at NIB Stadium for the last time in last Monday’s (7 Feb 2010) West Australian newspaper may well have done that.
In the picture, Harnwell was leaving the field with his children, tears in his eyes, sad that not only his career had come to an end, but no doubt sad to have witnessed how far the club he loved has fallen. Over his right hand shoulder were his team mates hanging back applauding him and letting him take the applause from the club’s loyal fans. Over to the left was a solitary figure, not clapping, marquee man Robbie Fowler.
Now the timing of the photograph is probably unfortunate, in that we are sure that he was applauding his team mate, but it showed two people who are undoubtedly poles apart as footballers, but also two people who are poles apart in terms of what Perth Glory means to them.
It was a very sad picture on so many levels. The last link with the past was walking out of shot. The present were a bedraggled beaten gaggle of men, and the man who was signed as an inspiration – or so we were led to believe – was keeping his distance. The picture showed that the players are far from united, as their performances have shown.
It seems crazy that the oldest player in Perth Glory’s squad Robbie Fowler, along with Steve McGarry and Tando Velaphi played the most games this season appearing 28 times in 30 games. This was not good management of an ageing player and does tend to suggest interference from above – yes there may be someone above ‘God’ or maybe it was his divine right. Quite simply were the coaches forced to play Fowler?
There is no doubt that he did not fit the team mould. Many have said that the players recruited around him were the wrong ones, yet most of those players were signed before Fowler, so again was he signed over the then Coach’s head? The fact is only Josh Risdon was signed after Robbie Fowler.
There is always the risk when you sign a former superstar that they are going to expect the same superstar treatment that they were used to. Fowler has never appeared to be in that group. However a room on his own on away trips was a requirement, and when the club turned around and said he had to pay for a room on his own he was far from happy.
Despite him not wanting special treatment he has been afforded such. Being allowed to return home to England in November when the team was going through a horror run beggared belief. Surely your key signing should have stayed with his team mates to try and dig themselves out of the hole they were in? At that time unity was crucial.
Now at the end of the season he has gone to Thailand with the owner of the club to discuss a possible contract for next season, while his team mates see out the end of the season and continue training.
Having interviewed Fowler for Fox Sports prior to the last home game against Gold Coast and having asked him directly whether he was going to be wearing Perth Glory colours next season his answer said a lot without actually answering the question. He talked about how well he gets on with the Chairman – who also happens to be the owner – and hardly mentioned the coach.
While discussing his future in Thailand, where is the coach? He is still in Perth, with the rest of the squad planning for next season.
It appears that despite being a member of the squad he is afforded special treatment, which can only ever build resentment. Most players who played this season know that his work-rate on the pitch was not a patch on theirs yet he kept his place in the starting line up. He was lauded for his vision which frequently failed to find a team mate, yet for some reason it still warranted praise; Another reason for resentment.
He had 77 ‘attempts at goal’ in the season, 32 on target (less than 50%) and only nine of those found the back of the net, three were penalties and one other was a tap in after the penalty was saved. Was this a good return on investment? The club has crowed about how signing Robbie Fowler gave them more memberships than ever before, so in financial terms he was a good investment. This however is a football club, and the question has to be was he a good investment in footballing terms; could his presence have been a contributing factor in the club’s disastrous season?
It would be unfair to lay the blame solely at the feet of Robbie Fowler, but there is no doubt that his presence has destabilised the club, and the special privileges afforded him by the Chairmen have had a negative effect on the other playing staff. Should he be rewarded with the role of player/assistant coach for season 2011/12, expect a similar outcome on the park for Perth Glory.
Remember they say a picture never lies.