Former Liverpool player and current SC East Bengal coach Robbie Fowler has been embroiled in several controversies ever since he has taken charge of one of the biggest football clubs in India.
Under the tutelage of Fowler, the Red and Gold Brigade made the worst possible start to life in their maiden Indian Super League (ISL) season with three defeats in their first three matches. The Kolkata giants had also failed to score in any of those games, putting their head coach under tremendous pressure.
SC East Bengal would later go on to end their losing streak with a goalless draw against Jamshedpur FC and claim their first point in the ISL.
Interestingly, Fowler has had a history of adopting a siege mentality in the past especially during his last stint in the A-League where he blamed the referees, opponent managers and league authorities at several moments.
Here are some of the incidents which show why Robbie Fowler has been the most controversial head coach in ISL 2020-21:
Infamous jibe at Indian players
After SC East Bengal were thrashed 3-0 by Mumbai City FC in their second ISL match, Fowler seemed to have lost his cool as he suggested that some of his Indian players might have never been coached before.
Interestingly, it was the second consecutive defeat for Fowler’s men after they had registered a loss against rivals ATK Mohun Bagan in their first ISL game of the season.
"We played two great teams and when you commit mistakes they will punish you. We will learn from that and we will soldier on. There is a little bit of work to do on the training park," Fowler said in the post-match interview.
"We will coach the players because in all fairness few of them have probably never been coached before and that is what we are doing. We will try and make our Indian players better and that takes good coaching and I don't think they had that in the years gone by," the 45-year-old added.
Fowler’s statement received sharp criticisms from former India internationals Shyam Thapa and Subhas Bhowmick who have also coached the Kolkata giants on previous occasions.
“The comment shows Robbie Fowler has some way to go before he can be called a good coach. You can say what you want to your players but behind the closed doors of the change room. In public, you defend them or say as a coach you couldn’t communicate what you wanted,” Bhowmick stated, who had coached the red and gold brigade to the 2003 Asean Cup title in Jakarta, making them the first Indian team to win a club competition outside south Asia.
Chairman of the All India Football Federation’s technical committee Thapa said “Fowler has been a great player so I think he couldn’t control the frustration at the big loss. Losing 0-2 to ATK Mohun Bagan was different; they are a team formed from champions of I-League and ISL. So even though the loss hurt, he could control himself.”
Later, Fowler clarified that his comments were taken out of context.
Questioning East Bengal’s recruitment process
SC East Bengal coach Robbie Fowler took potshots at his Indian players again following his side’s 2-3 loss to Hyderabad FC. This time, Fowler was of the opinion that his team was built for the I-League.
“I think we are a team that was built for the I-League. The recruitment process for this team was for the I-League and then we catapulted into the ISL. Now it’s up to the players to show that they are good enough for the ISL,” Fowler said.
Interestingly, several of the Indian players were recruited by the club and SC East Bengal incorporated them. The foreign players were recruited by the new management.
“We scored a couple of goals, which is obviously a positive. We proved that we can score and now we need to improve our concentration levels. Ten minutes after half-time you concede two goals which is obviously not what we want.
“I think we need to improve massively. I’m going to talk to the players. A few of them are not doing themselves any favour at the moment,” the Englishman added.
Releasing nine Indian players from squad
The Robbie Fowler-led SC East Bengal released as many as nine Indian players from their squad and sent them on loan for the remainder of the season in December.
The Liverpool legend justified the decision of sending players on loan midway into the season by stating that the decision was taken in the best interests of the club. He further added that he would be happy to witness all the nine players have a successful loan stint and prove him wrong.
"It is not me being nasty and vindictive. It is what is best for the club. We are trying to get the best results for this club and we feel that some of the players who aren't playing they can elsewhere and get games. It is not nice and someone has to make the decisions and the decision is mine to make. My job is to try and get the very best of results I can, bring the best people in the club, the former England international stated.
SC East Bengal are currently languishing in the ninth spot of the ISL points table 2020-21 and Fowler’s men will next face Chennaiyin FC on Monday, January 18.
Feature image courtesy: 2021 Indian Super League