Monday, July 2, 2007

100 Person Who Shock The Kop - NO 4: Robbie Fowler


Voted in at number four in our '100 Players Who Shook The Kop' series is the goalscoring sensation who took football by storm in the nineties, the 'Toxteth Terror' Robbie Fowler.
Four years after our ground-breaking '100 Days That Shook The Kop', we are delighted to invite you to enjoy our new '100 Players Who Shook The Kop' series – the definitive countdown of the 100 players who have made the biggest impact at Liverpool.

Over 110,000 supporters have all nominated their own personal Top 10 players in order of impact made and now the definitive top 100 countdown is underway.

Every player who has made the top 100 – and there are some surprises in there - will be honoured on this website via the e-Season ticket console with a specially produced video clip, including archive footage and exclusive interviews.

Since 1892 hundreds of players have represented this club but everyone has their own particular favourites so don't expect this list to be based solely on talent. The greatness of a player can be measured in many ways – obviously, his ability on the pitch is the most important, but 100 PWSTK is much more than that. It's about the impact the individuals chosen have had on this club, be it for a variety of reasons. Maybe it was because of their unique rapport with the crowd, a specific incident that has never been forgotten or anything else that has left a lasting impression.

Name: Robbie Fowler

Years at Liverpool: 1993 to 2001 & 2006 to present
Position: Forward

Date-of-birth: 9/4/1975
Birthplace: Toxteth

Signed from: Apprentice (April 1992)

Games: 348
Goals: 177

Honours: FA Cup (2001), UEFA Cup (2001), League Cup (1995, 2001), Super Cup (2001), PFA Young Player of the Year (1995, 1996)

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 and his striking exploits are already the stuff of legend.

Now in his second spell at the club, even if he doesn't net another goal for the Reds, his halo will never slip in the eyes of his adoring fans. 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.

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 rout and a star was born.

An instinctive goal-poacher, he claimed his first 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 came to a 19th League Championship during this era.

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.

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 on a red shirt once again.

He may not be the player he once was but already we've seen glimpses of his past magic. During the summer of 2006 Rafa Benitez extended his contract until the end of the current season and hopefully there is still another 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 – although helping Liverpool to a long awaited Premiership title would surely do him no harm!

Sold to: Leeds United (November 2001)

Claim to fame: Scoring the fastest-ever Premiership hat-trick

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