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On the eve of Robbie Fowler's final appearance at Anfield, pay tribute to the Reds' striking legend.
Robbie opens the scoring versus Reading in the Carling Cup
It's not for nothing that Robbie Fowler is known as God by those on the Kop. One of the most revered figures in Liverpool's recent history, Fowler is also one of the most naturally gifted goalscorers to have graced the famous red shirt. His striking exploits are already the stuff of legend and his halo will never slip in the eyes of the fans who have adored him for so long. Since scoring on his debut against Fulham in a 1993 League Cup tie, Fowler has enjoyed a long-running love affair with Kopites that has never wavered and shows no sign of abating. A boyhood Evertonian, he switched allegiances when joining the club's 'centre of excellence' at the age of 11. Even at that tender age, his vast potential was there for all to see as he ripped up scoring records and made a name for himself at local schoolboy level. A host of clubs sought his coveted signature but Liverpool made the successful swoop. It was the late Jim Aspinall who is rightly credited with persuading him to sign for the 'enemy' and it must rank has one of the most important this club has ever made. Fowler rose through the ranks as expected and those in the know knew the Reds had a special talent in their midst. In April 1992 his progress was rewarded with a professional contract and the following January he appeared on a senior teamsheet for the first time when named as one of the substitutes in a third round FA Cup replay at home to Bolton.
Fowler fact-file
Years at Liverpool: 1993 to 2001 & 2006 to 2007 Position: Forward Date-of-birth: 9/4/1975 Birthplace: Toxteth Signed from: Apprentice Sold to: Leeds United (November 2001) Signed back: Manchester City (January 2006) Games: 368 Goals: 183 Honours: FA Cup (2001), UEFA Cup (2001), League Cup (1995, 2001), Super Cup (2001), PFA Young Player of the Year (1995, 1996)
An infamous 2-0 defeat to the lower league Trotters that night was proof that Liverpool needed a player like Fowler in the team but then boss Graeme Souness managed to resist the temptation to blood him until two months into the following season. With the Reds still struggling for goals, Souey handed his highly-rated rookie striker a start at Craven Cottage and was rewarded with a debut goal. In the return at Anfield, Fowler famously netted all five in a 5-0 win and a star was born. An instinctive goal-poacher, he claimed his first league match ball after just five senior outings and ended the season as Liverpool's top scorer with 18. Excited Kopites viewed his arrival on the first team scene as divine intervention from up above and he certainly answered their prayers in the years that followed. His first full season in the limelight saw his reputation blossom from promising youngster to fully-fledged superstar, this rapid elevation no doubt aided by a fastest-ever Premiership hat-trick against Arsenal, a Coca-Cola Cup winners medal and the PFA Young Player of the Year accolade. He also topped the Anfield goalscoring charts again, breaching the 30 mark for the first time, and the so-called 'Toxteth Terror' was suddenly one of football's most feared finishers. What Fowler lacked in pace and height he made up with an uncanny ability to sniff out goals. No opposition net was safe when he was in the vicinity of the penalty box. Close-range tap-ins or long-range super strikes, the 'Growler' was wonderfully adept at both and, as the goals flew in by the bucket-load, his stock rose higher and higher. In 1995/96 he plundered over 30 goals for the second successive season, made his full England debut and comfortably retained his Young Player of the Year award. He outshone Eric Cantona on his over-hyped 'return', much to the chagrin of Sky TV no doubt, and fired the Reds to an FA Cup Final appearance at Wembley. Four goals at home to Middlesbrough in December 1996 saw him hit the milestone figure of 100 goals for the Reds quicker than striking mentor Ian Rush, while another 30-goal haul the following season took Liverpool to the closest they've been to a 19th League Championship. The classic 'local boy made good', Fowler's popularity among the fans was at a scale not seen since Kenny Dalglish was in his pomp. To them, he could do wrong, even if his infamous 'Spice Boy' image of the time brought him some unwanted off-field attention.
Did You Know?
In 1997 he won a UEFA Fair Play award for admitting that he had not been fouled by Arsenal keeper David Seaman after a penalty had been awarded during a league match at Highbury.
Controversy seemed to follow him on the field also during the late nineties but his faithful flock stood by him through the bad times. A lovable rogue, Fowler never forgot where he came from and in 1997 famously went public with his support for the sacked Merseyside Dockers during a UEFA Cup tie against Brann Bergen. Two serious injuries then forced him to endure a lengthy and frustrating spell on the sidelines, which coincided with the emergence of Michael Owen. But although Fowler temporarily lost his 'golden boy' status, Owen could never boast the same kind of rapport with the Liverpool crowd and it was no secret who they favoured most. With Gerard Houllier in sole charge Fowler encountered more problems and found himself a victim of the Frenchman's controversial rotation policy. He may no longer have been guaranteed a regular starting place but Houllier was well aware of his importance to the squad in terms of team spirit and handed him the captain's armband as a result. In February 2001, Fowler scored a spectacular goal on Liverpool's first visit to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and became the first Reds skipper to lift a trophy in six years as Birmingham were beaten on penalties in the Worthington Cup Final. It was to be the first leg of an unprecedented cup treble that season and Fowler also figured in the FA and UEFA Cup Final, coming off the bench in both and netting in the latter. Four days after the drama of Dortmund he was on the scoresheet again as Champions League qualification was clinched for the first time. But despite these goalscoring heroics, speculation that Houllier wanted to sell him refused to disappear and in November 2001 the unthinkable happened; Fowler was offloaded to Leeds, against his will, in a record-busting transfer. To say the Kop was shaken by this would be a gross understatement. Letters of protest flooded the local press and even the massive fee received failed to soften the blow. When Fowler failed to set the world alight at Leeds and then Manchester City the anger at his sale subsided slightly but the general consensus remained that he was suffering from a broken heart at being forced out of his beloved club. He remained a big Reds fan and even travelled to Istanbul to watch the 2005 Champions League Final. Talk of him returning occasionally popped up in the sports pages but was always shrugged off as pure fabrication. Until January 2006 that is; when Liverpool's prodigal son sensationally returned to a hero's reception. His free transfer capture from Manchester City delighted Kopites. Fowler, himself, admitted it was a dream come true and it warmed the hearts of everyone when he finally pulled a red shirt once again. His second spell at Anfield was never going to be as glorious as the first but over the past two seasons supporters have been treated to occasional glimpses of his past magic. During the summer of 2006 Rafa Benitez extended his contract until the end of the current campaign and now the end of an memorable era is nigh. But as he prepares to bid the Kop an emotional final farewell on Sunday maybe there could be one more glorious chapter of the remarkable Robbie Fowler story to be written. Whatever the future holds, it's hard to envisage him being loved by the fans more than he already is but with a Champions League Final in the land of the Gods to come, who knows? There could be no more fitting finale, that's for sure.
Robbie Fowler


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