Rovers matchday magazine RTID caught up with Lee Fowler ahead of the last home game.
Lee, tell us a little bit about how you started in football as young boy?
My brother was a football player as well so I was always around football as a boy. I was lucky enough to go straight into the first team at Cardiff when I was 14. I missed out the academy and youth stages and progressed quickly at Coventry. I thought this would be the best place for me to play in the first team.
You were in the side that got into the Premier League at Coventry but did you make an appearance?
No, I got a lot of injuries when I was young which prevented me from making my debut until the last game of the season against Bradford. It took me two years to get fit as I was training with men. I couldn’t get fit and I didn’t develop at the rate that I should have been doing.
Was it Roland Nilsson who gave you the chance at Coventry?
Yes, Roland was the one who had faith in me. Previous managers didn’t really have trust in me as I was a young age with a slight figure but Roland gave me the chance and I did really well there.
What were your highlights of playing for Coventry?
For some reason I always got picked to play in the local derbies, the big games, so that was a pleasure for me to be trusted as they’re not easy games to be thrown into. It was a compliment from the manager.
Where did you go after you moved on from Coventry?
I had too much too young, moneywise and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I became a bit of a spoilt brat to be honest with you. My football declined because of this so I took a move to Huddersfield and I got promoted my first season there but I was still in the same mentality that football owed me a favour. I didn’t work hard and played from some clubs that I really should never have played for but at the time I deserved to play for them because of my attitude. It’s only over the last couple of years that I’ve got my head screwed on and taken my football ability seriously.
Is it hard as a young footballer when you’ve got money and everything else thrown at you to handle it all?
I think it is, especially when you move away from home at such a tender age as 14. I think there should be more done to help the youth team players to handle the pressures and problems that arise. I know you have agents but sometimes they’re just in it for the money themselves rather than to protect the player.
You had a period of floating around the non-league football scene.
Yes, because of what happened early on in my career, I tarnished my name. People would see the ability but they wouldn’t see the player. I’ve matured now as a person and as a player and it’s only really at 29 years of age that people are starting to take me seriously.
Dean Saunders, who brought you to this club, had you at Wrexham but said that he always wanted to bring you here, What was it like playing for Dean at Wrexham?
For a manager to have total confidence in you as a person and as a player, it reflects well on the pitch. At Wrexham I felt as if I could walk on water with him as he didn’t tell me what to do, he just let me go out and play as he knew I wouldn’t let him down. When you walk on the pitch and the manager has 100% faith in you, confidence breeds into your game.
Dean left Wrexham to come to Doncaster and you moved on. Was it because Dean moved on that you left too?
Yes, as soon as he left I felt unsettled. I knew Andy Morrell the manager who came in but I didn’t like the way the club was going. I’m a bit like Dean as I’m an intense character and I like training to be intense. I turned down Doncaster in the Championship as I didn’t feel that with all the foreign players it would be beneficial to me come in at that time. I didn’t want to be a scapegoat. In the summer Fleetwood turned down bids from Doncaster for me and in the end, even though it’s a bit too late for Dean, now I’m here it’s a good chance for me.
What impressed you about Doncaster? Did Dean sell the club to you?
I turned down a lot of League One clubs before I came here but then the chance came to play with Dean at the top of the league and for my ability to be shown at a very good level so this appealed to me massively.
Unfortunately for you, in some ways, Dean moved on but now you’ve got another manager who knows you.
Yes, that’s the way it is in football. Players who do well get sold and managers who do well move on to other clubs but I’ve know Brian since I was 12/13 and his brother was my manager for the Welsh team as well. When I was young I was a bit hot-headed with him in the Under 21s which I regret. I have a lot of regrets in football but Brian will tell you I have changed as much as anyone.
Talking about the Welsh side, you must want to get back into the Welsh setup.
I think if it’s based on performances and ability, I have a good chance of getting in the squad. If it’s based on names and stature, in terms of Premiership and Championship, I think I will be excluded from their thought process due to where I’ve been playing.
What’s it been like training with Brian Flynn?
It’s been good. I’ve trained with Brian before so I know what he’s like. He’s very relaxed and not as intense as Dean but there’s a serious side to Brian. He knows exactly what he’s doing; he’s been in the game long enough. He’s very well respected wherever you go. The other day I went to Man Utd and they were referring to him as Welsh royalty so he’s got a lot of respect in the game and the lads respect him. Some people will react better to him as he’s not as intense as Dean. When teams are winning games it doesn’t matter who is manager as the team wins the game and the manager just lets you go out and play.
Brian has got Rob Jones backing him up as well.
Rob’s brilliant. I played with Rob on a trials game at Grimsby ten years ago and you could see then he would make a manager as he was vocal. Brian’s job is easier as Rob is keeping the continuity. He’s a leader on the pitch and he makes sure that nobody gives an inch.
You came on against Bury when we were 2-0 down. A lot of people are saying that your ability really shone out and you looked like you really wanted that ball.
Yes, I wasted all those years playing at a level that I shouldn’t have really been playing at so now I want to grab every opportunity I possibly can. I want to play every minute and I am hungry. I haven’t got long left in my career, maybe five or six years, if I look after myself,, and I want to make sure these six years are playing at the right level rather than the lower level where I’ve been playing.
Finally, how do you relax away from football now?
I’ve got my family and they’re my life. Having a baby has settled me right down. The first and last thing you think about every day is the baby. It’s helped me settle down and I no longer react to things, which is maturity. I’m no longer on the money I was when I was young but I’ve got other people to think about now with my team mates and my family. I need to provide for my family and if I can use my ability, it will make a better life for us.