The Reason For MarqueesBy: Ahmed | December 17th, 2009
After attending the Queensland Roar vs. North Queensland Fury match last night at Suncorp Stadium, I noticed one thing, the name and reputation of the marquee player makes a massive difference. I know I am the Queensland Roar blogger, but after last night, I just could not help myself but talk about this facet of the game.
I have never seen so many Liverpool football shirts in one location in Brisbane, or rather Australia, before. At one point during the game, some of the Brisbane fans were chanting you’ll Never Walk Alone and Robbie Fowler chants. It made me realise that some of the 11,000 crowd watching the game, had only come for one reason and one reason only, to watch Robbie Fowler play. Disregard the fact that he is now drawing to the end of an illustrious career, or that he is playing for a team that were struggling to get more than 2 passes together at times. Fowler had drawn many fans to the game, and it underlines what a marquee player should be.
When the draw was released for the season, I automatically looked for the first game NQFC was playing against Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium. The day was marked from the start of the season as the one game, if it only be one, that I will go watch this season. It was all about watching the man that Liverpool fans call ‘God’. If nothing else goes right for NQFC this season, then it is the signing of Robbie Fowler that is the only thing that they did get right. The marquee signing is someone who gets signed outside the salary cap. The reason for this is to allow clubs that opportunity to sign a star player, someone who will raise the profile of the game in Australia, someone who will bring the fans to the stadium and produce good performances. Not since Dwight Yorke has the A-league found this man. Robbie Fowler has filled the role perfectly.
He has scored some fantastic goals already this season. Despite his age, his first touch and vision on the field are still of a high standard. He is undoubtedly the reason many fans are going to watch NQFC play this season. Many of the other teams have failed to get the marquee signing correct. Some clubs have not even taken up the option of using the marquee signing. Of the noticeable marquees, Roar has Craig Moore, Perth has Mile Sterjovski, Gold Coast has Jason Culina and Sydney has John Aloisi. Sterjovski has been well below par. For someone who is considered a certainty for the Socceroos in the world cup, he has struggled to perform against some of the A-league players. He has not had the impact, both on and off the field, as would have been expected of someone who has just returned to play from England, still has some years left in him, and is a Socceroo.
John Aloisi is past his used by date. Many still hold him in high regard, but after a shocking first season with the sky blues, he has performed much better this year, but has failed to make that impact that is required of a marquee. He is inconsistent and very easy to read on the field. It is hard to believe that he has played in the major leagues in Europe. He shows no signs of having played at a high level and is sometimes one step behind some of the defenders he comes up against. Jason Culina has done well to bring the glamour to the Gold Coast. Still part of the Socceroos squad and with plenty of years left in his career, his decision to come back to Australia now, has baffled quite a few people. He has shown his experience on the field and is still a cut above most of the a-league players as a player. Off the field, he has not drawn the crowds to the stadiums in numbers that would be expected of a marquee.
Craig Moore has not had as a big an impact due to his position. As a defender, the job you do is not often remembered as the names of the goal scorers stick in the mind of the fans longer. The defenders are usually the unsung heroes. Brisbane fans are well aware of his contribution and his watertight work at the back. They also know that he is not expected to draw the crowds and raise the hype. Having said all that, the marquee is not just about getting someone who is a Socceroo or has played in Europe. It’s about getting the right name. Every one of the last four names mentioned above are good players. However, to a base that mainly follows English Premier League or European football, the players who are playing bit part roles in European teams are not going to draw attention as much as player who used to bang in goals for top European clubs or were the midfield generals for big teams. Big teams does not just mean champions league level, but players such as Thomas Gravesen, Christian Vieri, Laurent Robert, Henrik Larsson et al would all bring a much high level to the a-league that Australian football fans have never seen. These are just four names I can think off, but I’m sure many of you can think of other names worth throwing in to the hat.
Many people at the game at Suncorp were Brisbane fans, but they were also disappointed that Robbie Fowler did not deliver a goal. He was the major reason for many of the fans turning up to watch the game. The chance to see a man of such a high level with the droves of experience he has was not going to be missed. I remember turning to one fan and saying, “Fowler looks tired” and this was only after 15 minutes, his response highlighted everything for me, “Fowler can sit on the field for the whole game if he wants, he’s already a legend.” It just underlined for me how big a name he is. He has a great track record and was one of the most successful English Premier League players. He was a role model for many young kids and was a man many would stay up at ridiculous hours to watch. The chance to see him in the flesh does not come very often and at the end of the day, the game could have been played with the players riding elephants, but just the interest that Fowler has generated is great for the game. It’s time that clubs actually realise what the marquee signing is there for. North Queensland may not make the finals, but the interest and exposure they have received from their marquee player, has done them wonders.