Feb 03, 2012|
A year ago, the big close-season story was the shock departure of head coach René Desaeyere from the Muangthong United hotseat. One year on and it’s the turn of player-coach Robbie Fowler to head for the exit and one final big payday in India. For whereas René was pushed, Fowler has jumped and will make his way to India to take part in the new Premier League Soccer (PLS) tournament – a lucrative six-team event starring aged European players at the wrong end of their careers. And whereas Rene’s absence was keenly felt as MTU fell behind Buriram PEA and Chonburi in 2011, the departure of Fowler will probably be quietly welcomed by the majority of the Twin Qilins faithful.
The signing of Fowler in July last year may have made international sports headlines, raised the club’s profile and helped shift a few thousand replica shirts, but it’s fair to say things really didn’t work out on the pitch. Muangthong won the TPL by four points in 2010. In 2011 there was an astonishing swing of 29 points as they finished in third place, some 25 points behind Buriram PEA. The greater part of that huge gap opened up in the final quarter of the season when Fowler was at the helm. MTU won just one of their final eight games – a disastrous run which saw them lose to Buriram and rivals for second place Chonburi, and drop points to each of the bottom three teams (a home defeat against Siam Navy, and draws against Khon Kaen and Sriracha).
Matters came to a head earlier this week when a prominent Muangthong United blog launched a ‘Fowler Out’ campaign as a response to rumors that Fowler was intending to join the PLS. The disgruntled blogger didn’t have to wait long, as within hours of the campaign being launched news came through confirming that Fowler had left the club for good, ending concerns that he would play in the PLS and then return to his job at MTU.
Fowler himself hasn’t had much to say, publicly at least, since his departure. He did take to Twitter though to slam a report in the Bangkok Post. The mystifyingly popular English-language daily carried a quotation attributed to Fowler: "I want to take responsibility after the team failed to get good results". But Fowler responded by actually saying on Twitter “this quote never came from me in Bangkok Post.” He went on to tweet “The president and CEO of Mtutd know why I quit and it certainly was nothing to do with results.” That pithy enigmatic parting shot hints at behind the scenes conflicts, similar to those which brought downfall of the last two coaches René and Henrique Calisto.
So who will the poisoned chalice pass to next? Rumours suggest Fowler’s number two Miloš Josić will be the man. He’s a capable coach with experience in Thailand, and met with success at Rajpracha F.C. But will he really be allowed to get on with the job by those behind the scenes?
Read our interview with Robbie Fowler when he joined Muangthong back in July here.