North Queensland Fury giving fans what we want
EDITORIAL: Finally, there's an A-League club which is listening to the greater Australian sports market. It may've taken a new franchise, a rookie coach and a green owner, but it's North Queensland Fury which have delivered box office to the Australian sports public in the form of Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler. There's already a buzz about Fowler next season. Not within the tired, cynical soccer clique that exists in the local game, but across the wider sports going community. Y'know, the people who will decide if the A-League is successful.
People across Australia and New Zealand want to see Fowler in the flesh. Not since Dwight Yorke's arrival at Sydney FC has the A-League been able to offer an individual to compete for media space with the icons of rival football codes.
And the Townsville media have played Fowler's arrival perfectly, comparing the capture of the Liverpool icon with some of the great foreign rugby league players to grace Queensland teams. If they weren't aware before, the local public now know the significance of Fowler's signing - thanks to support of the media and the rival Crocodiles and Cowboys teams.
On and off the pitch, the Fury are already being rewarded for their ambition. Fowler's presence has given Fury management the opportunity to compete for sponsorship dollars with the well-established Cowboys rugby league club - and also provided coach Ian Ferguson a selling-point to potential new signings, like FC Basel's Australia international Scott Chipperfield.
Names like Wilson, Chipperfield and Fowler are proof that Ferguson and Fury owner Don Matheson are listening to their public. A big foreign name, a high-profile Australia international and experienced, quality foreign pros - Fury management are giving fans something to be excited about.
And what's most satisfying is they're doing it against the wishes of the soccer clique inside the Australian media. The usual suspects have all gone quiet since Fowler's arrival was made official, but when it was in the balance, they were climbing over themselves to tell us how bad an idea it was. Forget that Dave Jones and Peter Ridsdale at Cardiff City were desperate for him to re-sign, or that Paul Ince handed him a contract at Blackburn Rovers. This wasn't even mentioned, it probably didn't even register for the ex-players' brigade in the media. How often did we hear "I don't know what's he's been doing for the past couple of years" from them?
I'd sooner take the word of Fergie or Incey over that lot. What's more, it's a great insult to Ferguson to suggest he hasn't done his research on Fowler. A former Rangers captain, with more winners' medals in his trophy cabinet than the media's entire mob of ex-players could boast, why would Ferguson risk his reputation in his first senior job if he wasn't sure of Fowler?
The squad Ferguson is putting together is exciting. Fowler and Chipperfield are there to sell to the wider public, but there's also chances for two potential world-beaters in Fred Agius and Jeremy Brockie. Both players have fallen off the radar since making a splash as teenagers and if Ferguson can turn their careers around, they're capable of making as big an impact as any player on the Fury roster.
Given Ferguson's ambitions in the market, you do wonder if the prospect of giving Mark Bosnich a chance has been considered. The former Manchester United and Chelsea goalkeeper is desperate to play - anywhere - and Ferguson knows him from their time together last season at the Central Coast Mariners.
Bosnich was a show-stopper for the Oceania Allstars against LA Galaxy last year and was telling anyone and everyone that he just wanted to play. You wonder if the two Sons (Ferguson and Matheson) may fancy accommodating Bosnich.
A team of Fowler, Chipperfield and Bosnich, with Ferguson prowling the touchline, gives the Fury the sort of box-office status we haven't seen in the A-League since the first season of Sydney FC - and it's what is needed if crowds and television ratings are to return to a steady climb.