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My Favourite Player #23 - Robbie Fowler

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Veinticinco de Mayo:
Robbie Fowler signed professional forms for Liverpool on his 17th birthday in April 1992, just as the club was beginning it's Souness inspired fall from grace.  We needed something to make us smile and though we would not know it at the time Robert Bernard Fowler would make us grin from ear to ear.  We certainly were not smiling when he first made the teamsheet, as an unnamed sub, in the comprehensive home FA Cup 3rd Round Replay defeat by 2nd Division Bolton in January 1993.  It was the following season before he would get onto the pitch for Liverpool but he had whetted our appetites in the summer by becoming the top scorer as England won the U-18 European Championships. It was enough that when he was included in the side for the away League Cup game at Fulham in September 1993 we were glued to our radios, eager discover how the lad would do. Naturally he scored.  Perhaps traces of a smirk were appearing. Two weeks later though this happened...

Oh yeah, we were grinning now.  Here, for completeness, is that first ever Liverpool goal...

To try and put this into context look at the febrile atmosphere on here when Pacheco manages a couple of dribbles and a cute pass in a game.  Imagine that tsunami of spunk that would swamp RAWK if a lad broke through now and had that sort of immediate impact.  In reality as Robbie wobbled off with ball tucked up his shirt, the Kop pregnant with anticipation, he was given a ticking off from Ronnie Moran who told him he should have had seven.

It wasn't a flash in the pan either, he scored his first league goal against Oldham a week later and in his fifth league game he scored his first league hat-trick, another match ball tucked inside his shirt.  A new Kop hero was born, unfortunately a few weeks later his first season was curtailed when he broke his ankle in an FA Cup tie against Bristol City.  The mists of time mean I cannot remember if he got the injury in the first abandoned game or in the rearranged fixture.  Whichever; it was a game played on a yokel's turnip field.  By the time Robbie returned the manager who gave him his debut had gone.  Souness being ushered out after another home FA Cup defeat in the replay against Bristol City. So Robbie started the 1994-95 season with a new manager in Roy Evans and as a key component in a new far more exciting, if frustrating, Liverpool side.

The season started brilliantly with a 6-1 battering of Palace at Selhurst Park, Fowler scoring one of the goals then next it was Arsenal at home.  This was the season that the new Kop was being built and we, along with a lot of other Kop ST holders were temporarily housed in the Annie Rd end.  Which gave those of us who did not blink time to witness history being made...

4 minutes thirty three seconds.  The fastest Premiership history ever and traffic problems on the 62 meant a few around us missed it.  Not only that they refused to be believe us when we told them.  "Fowler.  Three goals in about three minutes?
Yeah right!"

Robbie was partnering Ian Rush at this stage and I think this was crucial in his development as a player.  It seems Robbie did too saying this of his strike partner: "He's done it all before and knows the ins and outs of the game. He knows everything about defenders and has told me about the strengths and weaknesses of every one we've played against and that's made a big difference to me. In the games it's the same. He never stops talking, keeps on at me non-stop and that's helped me to develop this season. But I know I've been lucky. I'm learning from the best and if you don't learn from the likes of Ian then who can you learn from?"

Despite his illustrious strike partner Robbie was rapidly becoming the main man and the main goal threat.  As 1994 turned into 1995 Robbie scored a goal that is still seared in my mind the way that the Suarez goal in my avatar is.  In the 4-0 defeat of Norwich he chased a steepling goal kick from David James, he was being chased down by defenders and how he controlled the dropping ball was going to be everything. He "caught" it on his calf in full stride, cushioning and caressing the ball into his path where he lashed it on the half volley low past the keeper before he had even realised what had happened.  Pure genius.

It was a great season for Robbie, he was an ever-present playing all 57 games for Liverpool and scoring 31 goals.  He won his first silverware in the shape of the League Cup with his best mate McManaman turning in a brilliant display to destroy Bolton in the final.  He was also named the Players Young Player of the Year.  He had just turned 20.

The 1995-96 started with two shocks, one was a shock of peroxide blond atop Fowler's cheeky grid, the other was that Robbie was dropped to accommodate new signing Stan Collymore.  Collymore soon picked up an injury and Robbie returned and cemented his place in the team with four goals against Bolton in September.  It was about this time that he hit the papers for the wrong reasons for the first time too, getting involved in a drunken altercation with Neil Ruddock on the way back from Vladikavkaz.

A prank that went wrong, something that would become a familiar refrain yet something that simply endeared him to the Kop even more.  In so many ways he was the embodiment of the Kop on the pitch, cocky, with much to be cocky about, taking the piss but most of all, destroying opponents with sublime movement, control and finishing.  He was the player we all wanted to be and no more so than on the 1st October when he upstaged some pretentious French prick with anger management problems at Old
Trafford with two goals of such sublime brilliance that it simply took your breath away...

Scoring important goals was becoming a trait and one he would maintain throughout his Liverpool career even when he was no longer first choice he could be relied on to chip in with moments of divine inspiration; the most memorable of those being his contribution to the treble season in 2001.  He was very much out of favour with Houllier at the time.  Our game of pacey counter-attack being more suited to the pace and strength of Owen and Heskey than the guile of God.  Yet he still managed to pop up with a brilliant and vital equaliser in the League Cup final, a goal as a sub in the UEFA Cup final and an impudent overhead lob to dig us out of a hole at Charlton and win Champion's League football for the following season. 

Back in 1995 however there was now no danger of him being dropped, he finished the season with 36 goals from 53 games in all competitions and was named the Players' Young Player of the Year for a second time.

Ian Rush retired at the end of that season and Robbie was given his mentor's number 9 shirt, but he had already done enough to make the number 23 an iconic LFC shirt number.  It was another prolific season for Robbie who bagged another four goals against Middlesborough, another match ball disappearing into another jersey.  His second goal of the four was also his one hundredth for the club. He finished the season with a ban for fighting David Unsworth in the derby but he had still scored 31 goals in all competitions making him the only player in Premiership history to score 30 goals in each of his first three full seasons.

I could ramble on for as long again about his time under Houllier, his departure and the second coming but I want to remember him in his pomp, the glory of those first 3 seasons before the injuries back when anything seemed possible.  Ladies and gentleman I give you Robbie Fowler; scouser, goalscorer, legend.

Magic :)

Phil M:
Thank God for this.

For a fat little ugly c*nt with small ears, he wasn't too bad.

His joyous launch into a linesman being one of the greatest moments in football from a fo-pro-docker-pro.

I guess he was decent, Andy Carroll would give him a run for his money


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