Ben Currie – @bencurrie8
Jason Fowler is not only my favourite player that I have ever seen at Torquay, he is also the best. In my opinion the most technically gifted to pull on the yellow shirt in my lifetime. His vision, imagination and sheer intelligence on the field of play made him a joy to watch, a privilege in fact.
The line between joy and tragedy in football is a thin, brutal one, but one that can sometimes be obscured. For example, I would not have had the opportunities to see Jason wield his magic at Plainmoor had it not been for the horrible over-active thyroid problem that cruelly curtailed his progress onto, surely, a very high level.
Nevertheless, it was still seen as a massive coup when Roy MacFarland secured his services in 2001. It was not until Leroy Rosenior took over a year later that we saw Jason’s ability truly shine: Leroy let his team’s play with greater freedom, reckless abandon, sometimes.
The talented trio of David Graham, Alex Russell and Jason Fowler is a fondly remembered and often cited theme of those two free flowing years in the old ‘Division Three’ which culminated in our glorious promotion in 2004.
David Graham was the regular scorer of spectacular goals. Russell was the creator; be it in open play or via a set-piece, the archetypal box-to-box midfielder. Fowler held it all together, he was an artist, a maestro, he made it all look so effortless and so so good.
Like any good midfielder he would dictate the tempo of play, he would often play the sensible 10 yard pass, and out of nowhere would then switch play with a raking 50 yard first time swish of his boot, he never lost possession.
His thyroid continued to be a problem, and his appearances became more sporadic, 97 appearances over 4 seasons is an unfair, unrepresentative statistic for a man so worth the entrance fee. It did little to diminish his influence on the team.
In a Highway to Hele interview (guess who sent in most of the questions!) Fowler revealed how he rarely trained during the week. Instead he would receive treatment in order to ensure he was fit enough to play on Saturdays. As a man who was never reliant on brute force or blistering pace, perhaps this is the most suitable measure of how technically gifted he really was and how important his presence was within the team.
I remember, vividly, a period of extra time against Yeovil in the LDV trophy, 3 substitutes already used and Jason has picked up a knock and is barely mobile. He trots out to make himself an outlet on the right wing, right in front of the Popside.
3 opponents converge on Fowler, it looks an impossible escape, with the ball at his feet, a balletic pirouette perplexes the 3 rivals and he moves forwards unscathed with the ball still glued to his foot. Utterly magical.
In the same interview Jason admits his biggest regret was retiring midway through our ill-fated League One season. I recall him hobbling out onto the pitch for a half time farewell just days after he called time on his career. I rate him so highly, but even I don’t think he’d have made much of a difference!
My biggest criticism of Jason is that he undoubtedly raised my expectations of players to impossible heights to meet. Eunan O’Kane certainly showed similar glimpses of genius in his time with us, footballing magicians of that ilk just don’t arrive at Plainmoor very often.
Players like these are unique, they are special, they need to be seen, they deserve to be seen. Watching Fowler or O’Kane play is what makes football the ‘beautiful game’ because they make it look so easy, but when you compare them to the also-rans that have been there before and after, you soon realise it isn’t.
There is an excellent collection of Fowler’s greatest goals for Cardiff chronicled on YouTube, it is well worth a watch. It is obvious that he could have, should have played at a higher level for longer, but another man’s pain is another man’s joy because without his troublesome thyroid, I’d have never been spellbound by Jason Fowler.