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Robbie Fowler – My Hero

Robbie Fowler – My Hero
Written by Ste Speed on May 30th, 2007 ▪ Subscribe to TIA Alerts

A couple of weeks ago a little piece of my heart was broken. I knew the day was going to come and I’d been dreading it for a while. Even though I knew it was just wishful thinking, I still held out hope that this day would be postponed for one more year. It was the day it was announced that Robbie Fowler’s time as a Liverpool player has come to an end.

I have so many great memories of Robbie Fowler and watching Liverpool games will never be the same again for me. This season we haven’t seen as much of The Growler as I’d have liked but even when he was on the bench it was still exciting because it was still possible for him to come on and score. He may have lost some pace and injuries may have taken their toll but there is still no doubting his ability to find the goal from anywhere. Wherever he goes to next he still has plenty to offer at a decent level.

I still vividly remember the buzz and excitement when he exploded onto the scene back in September 1993. He scored on his debut against Fulham in the League Cup and then followed it up two weeks later with five goals in the second leg. In only his fifth first team game he smashed his first league hat-trick against Southampton and went on to score twelve goals in his first thirteen games. He finished his first season at Liverpool as the clubs top scorer with eighteen goals. Amazing fairytale stuff when you consider that Ian Rush was still a presence and Robbie was still a teenager.

There have been a number of young players in recent years who have had plenty of hype and had high profiles, Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen are probably the two most notable. However nobody has even come close to matching what Robbie Fowler achieved in his first four seasons at Liverpool.

After a terrific first season he went on to score over thirty goals in each of his next three seasons. Within three years he had scored his first one hundred goals, with the hundredth coming in a game against Middlesbrough when he scored four. During these seasons he scored some very memorable goals that really stand out in my memory and I’m sure they do for you too.

There was the famous four minute hat-trick against Arsenal at Anfield in 1994. I remember another great hat-trick away at Aston Villa in 1996. This was another one where he scored pretty quickly at the start of the game. One of the goals is pretty famous, it’s the one where he nutmegged Steve Staunton with a back heel before smashing it in the top corner. That game was on Sky on a Sunday afternoon and I had stupidly booked a driving lesson at the same time as the game. Fortunately my instructor was fifteen minutes late so I didn’t miss the Fowler blitz! When I told my driving instructor, who was an Evertonian, what had just happened, he had to come into the house and see the score with his own eyes!

I think my favourite Fowler goals during his early days, are the two stunners he scored against Man Utd at Old Trafford in 1995. It was early in the season so Robbie still had the blonde hair from a summer holiday prank. Both goals were absolutely awesome and he beat Peter Schmeichel (the best goalie in the world at that time) from ridiculous angles. Unfortunately for Robbie this game was Eric Cantona’s comeback game after his eight month suspension for the scissor kick into the crowd. Cantona scored with a late penalty to make it 2 - 2 and it was the Frenchman who dominated the headlines afterwards so the two pearler’s from Fowler never got the attention they deserved.

It’s not just amazing goals that made Robbie Fowler so popular with the fans. It was also his propensity to be involved in controversial and often hilarious incidents. Probably the most famous of these would be the goal-line sniffing incident against Everton in 1999 after he’d scored his second goal of the game. This was in reference to the cocaine rumours that were extremely prevalent on Merseyside for many years, mostly spread by Everton fans. I wish I had a pound for every person in the late nineties I met who claimed to know somebody, usually a taxi driver or a relative, who had sworn they’d seen Fowler sneaking into the cubicles in nightclub bathrooms with mysterious white powder. I never really believed it was true (despite convincing arguments thrown at me) but the talk was so strong it really did cause a lot of hurt for Robbie and his family.

Houllier said afterwards in the press conference that Robbie did it as a tribute to Rigobert Song who brought a grass eating celebration from Cameroon. Houllier was laughed out of the press conference (while he himself was deadly serious) and in the papers the next day he was made into a joke. Houllier never forgave Fowler and in Robbie’s autobiography he says he’s been told that this was the moment Houllier considered him to be finished at Liverpool.

Other notable incidents include the moment he showed his backside to Graeme Le Saux of Chelsea just one week after the goal-line moment. There was history with Le Saux and Liverpool stemming from the previous season when he had a punch up in the Anfield tunnel with Paul Ince. Le Saux had given Robbie a few nasty elbows and as retaliation he began making suggestive comments about Le Saux’s sexuality. After Le Saux had complained, Fowler then bent over in a suggestive manner towards him as he went for a throw in and he was booked. Afterwards Robbie received a ban and a £32,000 fine by the F.A.

In 1997 after he had scored a goal in front of The Kop against S.K Brann in the Cup Winners Cup, Robbie celebrated by lifting his shirt to reveal a T-shirt showing support for the striking Liverpool dockers. It’s since been revealed the Fowler and Steve McManaman both contributed funds to the families of the dockers. Many of those dockers and their families were regulars at Anfield and it was this type of support from Robbie that made him God to the supporters. Amazingly he actually received a fine from UEFA for his actions in revealing the Dockers T-shirt.

Ironically that year, he also won a UEFA Fair Play award for admitting that he had not been fouled by David Seaman against Arsenal after a penalty had been given. After unsuccessfully trying to convince the referee to change his decision about the penalty Fowler took it tamely and Seaman saved, the ball rebounded however and Jason McAteer tucked it home.

After Gerard Houllier took charge of Liverpool, Robbie’s career went downhill. He had a knee ligament injury in 1998 that kept him out for the majority of the year. While he was out injured Michael Owen came to prominence and was showing signs of being the ‘new Fowler’ after a memorable World cup and a hatfull of goals for The Reds. Houllier liked to play a counter attacking style that involved playing a lone striker with bags of pace. Unfortunately after he came back from his serious injury, Robbie had lost some of his pace and Houllier preferred to go with Owen and later Emile Heskey who were both a lot faster than him. In both Fowler’s and Owen’s autobiographies they reveal that Houllier told them they were both competing to partner Heskey who was the main man in Houllier’s opinion. Can you believe that? Houllier made some farcical decisions at times (substituting Hamman against Leverkusen) and trying to suggest the hard working but limited Heskey over two of our greatest ever strikers is just absurd.

Despite not getting along with Houllier, he was the team captain during the 2000/01 season while the club captain Jamie Redknapp was out injured for the entire season. This was the year we won the treble and it was definitely Fowler’s most successful under Houllier. Robbie scored in two of the finals. He scored a belter in the league Cup Final against Birmingham City. The commentary is memorable for that one by Clive Tyldesley: “Fowler’s hit, Fowlers goal”. He was a substitute during the 2001 FA Cup Final against Arsenal. This was the Owen show however with his two late goals to steal the cup from Arsenal who had dominated the first eighty minutes. Robbie almost added a third right the end when he went one on one with Seaman.

He was also a substitute for the UEFA Cup Final against Alaves in Dortmund but this time he came on and scored a cracker to make it 4 – 3. That was one of my favourite moments ever in football. I stood in the pub screaming “Fowler, Fowler, Fowler” for about thirty seconds, as my dad and other fellas came bursting out of the gents with pee on their pants after hearing the roars from the rest of the pub. It was great to see him lift another trophy that season, along with vice captain Sami Hyppia.

The start of the 2001/02 season was littered with controversy and fights between Robbie and Houllier and Phil Thompson. It started badly at the Charity Shield when we beat Man Utd. The week before the game the players were practising penalties at Melwood. Phil Thompson was retrieving balls from the goal net when Robbie blasted one that just missed Thommo’s nose by inches. Thompson went beserk and laid into Robbie with his trademark foul language and temper. Houllier informed Robbie that he was dropped for the Charity Shield and wouldn’t play again until he apologised for the penalty incident. Robbie travelled to Cardiff with the rest of the team but ended up leaving before the end and making his own way home.

There was still time however for one more magic moment from The Growler when he scored a hat-trick away at Leicester City in his final full game for Liverpool. Just one month later he was sold to Leeds Utd for £11 million in November 2002. He stayed there for one and a half seasons. Injuries blighted his time there but he still managed to score fifteen goals in thirty one appearances. After Leeds Utd started selling off their big names due to debt, Robbie moved on to Man City where he once again struggled with injury and never really regained the form he showed at Anfield. The most notable moment in his first season with Man City was when he missed a last minute penalty that prevented them from qualifying for the UEFA Cup.

In January 2006 I had moved to Vancouver, Canada. I was at work one day when a text message came from my dad. That was the best text message I have ever received and I still have it on my phone today. The message reads: “Fowler has signed 4 Reds on a free till end of season! How gr8 is that finally a proven goal scorer!” I had no idea at the time that he was even rumoured to be coming back so this text took me completely by surprise. As soon as I read it, I rubbed my eyes and looked at it again, then I jumped out of my chair and began doing a weird form of Irish jig through my workplace in jubilation. When I got home and was able to check on the internet for clarification, I don’t think I stopped smiling for weeks!

He scored an overhead kick in front of The Kop on his first game back but unfortunately it was offside. He had another goal against Charlton ruled offside a few weeks later, although that one was a bad decision. He finally got his return goal, ironically against Fulham, and then he was flying for the rest of the season. He scored goals against, Blackburn, Bolton and Portsmouth, showing that his eye for goal was still there. He also seemed to be playing with a passion and fitness not displayed in years and all of this was enough for Rafa to offer him a one year contract for 2006/2007.

With the purchase of Craig Bellamy and Dirk Kuyt for this season, Fowler hasn’t played very often but when he has played, he’s certainly made a terrific contribution to the team. So far he has scored seven goals this season, that’s only two less than Bellamy who has played a considerable amount more games than Robbie. I truly hope that he manages to get involved at some stage during the Champions League Final. Is it too much to dream that he’ll score the winning goal in his final game?

Whatever you like to call him, The Toxteth Terror, The Growler or simply God, I prefer to use two words to describe Robbie Fowler – My Hero.


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