JAMES Fowler will find out this week if he has done enough in his stand-in role at Queen of the South to be appointed as their permanent new boss, but, regardless of what the Palmerston board decide, it seems to be a question of when rather than if the 33-year-old becomes a manager.
The former Kilmarnock midfielder was appointed as a player-coach at Palmerston Park this summer, but he stepped up to become temporary head honcho when manager Jim McIntyre left for Ross County earlier this month.
With coach Billy Dodds and sports scientist Ross Hughes also leaving to join McIntyre in Dingwall, Fowler, who is still playing, has had to juggle a number of roles while keeping the Dumfries side in the upper echelons of the Championship.
A draw at Falkirk in the aftermath of the change was followed by a 1-0 win over Hibs, but Fowler got his first taste of managerial disappointment on Saturday when his side went down to Cowdenbeath.
Chairman Billy Hewitson had advised on Friday that no announcement would be made until this week, and Fowler, who will be back multi-tasking today, said: “Management is a natural progression for me. You play, and then you play and get involved in coaching.
“For two years I worked with Allan Robertson and the Development Squad at Kilmarnock. I would take sessions on my days off and on my holidays to gain experience. I was comfortable in that environment, but I wanted to step up to working with a first team and that is why I came to Queens.” Fowler’s progression from player to player-coach and potentially player-manager was symbolically marked, as he explained: “The move was a change in responsibilities but for the first couple of weeks of pre-season I was in the dressing room with the players.
“It was great as I was getting to know them, however I took a step away and started going into the managers’ changing rooms. That was a big change as it was recognising that I had a different job to do. I have changed again as I have been on my own during the past few weeks but I have enjoyed it.”
Despite creating distance, Fowler has no intention of being autocratic. He said: “You cannot stand still with players. They have changed over the years and coaches have had to change in how they manage them. When I first came in you would get a right good old telling off and I did from my first boss Bobby Williamson and then Jim Jefferies and Billy Brown. I was okay with that and played under them for a long time but footballers respond differently now.
“A lot of the boys need cuddles and supported that way. It is all about assessing individuals and getting the best out of them. Some still need a blast but you need other methods.”
Fowler also learnt from former Rugby Park managers Mixu Paatelainen and Kenny Shiels. “Mixu improved me as a player, as he helped me understand the game better at an age where I did not think I could improve,” said Fowler. “His training methods opened my eyes and as I was just starting my qualifications it was great to see him work.
“Kenny was really keen on the training field. He was a coach and a hands-on manager. Jim McIntyre was as well and I see myself as having a similar approach to them.”
Asked if he would continue playing in the event that he lands the Queens job permanently this week, Fowler said: “Initially, I thought I was going to stop, but I spoke to a few people and they all advised me to keep going.
“If I am given the role I would bring someone in to take some of the workload off me and that would make things easier in terms of getting on the pitch.”
Despite Saturday’s defeat at Central Park, Fowler has been encouraged by the way the players have responded to his management. He said: “The boys have been excellent with me. There is a good mix of youth and experience and we believe that we can be a top four side and make the play-offs. I would love to be the man to take them there.”