Queen of the South: Highs and lows of James Fowler's reign

By Giancarlo RinaldiSouth Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland
James Fowler
James Fowler has been removed as Queen of the South manager after just short of two seasons in charge

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times - well, sort of.

There were definite highs and lows to James Fowler's time in charge at Queen of the South which came somewhat unceremoniously to an end on Monday night.

It was, in classic football parlance, a bit of a game of two halves.

His first season, thrown in at the deep end after Jim McIntyre's departure for Ross County, brought some fine displays and a play-off place.

But that tricky second season syndrome saw his team stutter and their form plummet after a cracking start to the campaign.

Promising beginnings

Last term, it looked like the club had made the smoothest transition possible.

Inheriting a strong squad, Fowler gradually put his own mark on the side and turned in a series of memorable displays.

Play-off defeat
Queen of the South lost out in the play-offs in Fowler's first season

A couple of tremendous wins over Rangers at Palmerston were the icing on the cake in a season which ultimately saw them lose out narrowly in a play-off to the Ibrox side.

They gained plaudits for the passing style and adventurous approach which made Dumfries a tough place to visit for anyone.

It looked like the club had once again worked its magic and picked up a quality manager who had originally been signed in a player-coach role.

The way he adjusted so quickly to his new role was impressive.

Loss of key personnel

But the summer brought some harsh realities home at the Doonhamers.

The team which qualified for the play-offs was slowly picked apart as a string of key young players departed for pastures new.

Goalkeeper Zander Clark went back to parent club St Johnstone, Hearts snapped up Gavin Reilly, Ross County took Ian McShane, Kevin Holt left for Dundee, Hibs signed Danny Carmichael and Mark Durnan was Dundee United-bound.

The spine of the side had been systematically removed and any manager would have struggled to cope.

Initially, they appeared to suffer few ill effects with three wins out of three in their opening Championship fixtures.

But the points dried up and so did the goals and hopes of another play-off season began to fade.

Ian McShane
Ian McShane was one of a number of players to leave the club

It speaks volumes about the progress that the club has made that failure to secure a top four finish could be seen as unsatisfactory.

A number of players signed in the summer struggled with injuries while others found their form was intermittent at best.

There were the odd flashes of good performances, but they were far fewer than they had been in recent campaigns.

Learning curve

How much you blame the manager for that depends on your point of view.

Some will think that anyone would have found it tough to lose so many players in the transfer window and he deserved another season.

Others will argue that the replacements he brought in were not up to the job and he should carry the can.

Whatever your viewpoint, he deserves recognition for taking up his position much earlier in his career than he can ever have imagined at Palmerston Park and delivering some memorable moments - particularly in that first campaign.

He never made any secret of the fact that he was still learning the job in Dumfries and was entitled to make a few mistakes.

That managerial education will now have to continue elsewhere, while the Doonhamers begin the search for someone to keep the club knocking on the door of Scottish football's top division.

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