There’s a very elite club in Ayrshire with only a handful of members, the members of this club are the men who have captained Kilmarnock FC to capturing silverware. The latest inductee to this, exclusive club is James Fowler. For on March 18th 2012 he lifted the League Cup for Kilmarnock and found himself joining this assembly – he was the latest man to captain Scotland’s oldest professional club to a major trophy. Tonight, at Rugby Park the place James Fowler has plied his trade for 15 years, he will be honoured with a testimonial match against Sheffield Wednesday.
In the modern era of astronomical wages and gross transfer fees, many football supporters will be ethically opposed to holding testimonial matches for these ‘overpaid’ footballers. And, it must be said who can blame them? As the football fan struggles from week to week why should they fork out to give a player who no doubt earns a more comfortable wage than most a cushy retirement? I don’t disagree with this sentiment on the whole – although, on this occasion I certainly do.
We have a generation of footballers now, who will be classed as fantastic servants to their clubs if they manage to hack it for 4 or 5 seasons. James Fowler has been grafting for Kilmarnock for 15 years, through highs and lows. He’s been played in almost every position imaginable – it was even said amongst the support that nobody knew what his best position actually was although in recent seasons it has become clear that Fowler excels in the teams engine room, underpinning everything that the midfield does.
Having surpassed 300 games – ensuring membership to another select group of players – it’s fair to say that in the blue and white of Kilmarnock, Fowler has experienced it all. UEFA Cup football in the 2000/01 season with trips to Glenavon and Viking Stavanger; heart-breaking cup exits at the hands of lower league opponents; the devastating League Cup final demolition at the hands of Hibernian; flirting with relegation on the final day of the season. And of course, most recently winning a major trophy.
Fowler is now working under his 5th manager at Kilmarnock and is arguably producing the best performances of his career. Earlier in his career he was linked with a potential move to Celtic, in spite of this Fowler remained at Rugby Park in the face of relentless and often ruthless budget cuts as the club struggled with mountains of debt and despite the uncertainty, James Fowler’s loyalty has never faltered. A fantastic role model for the young players at the club and indeed young players across the game at all levels, a more deserving candidate of a testimonial there will rarely be.
So, tonight, at Rugby Park Kilmarnock players and fans alike will gather to show their respect and appreciation for this rarest breed of footballer.