Monday, October 16, 2006

100 Players Who Shook The Kop Top 10

#4 Robbie Fowler

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)

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Part Two:

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. 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. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Where is he now? Back at his spiritual home

Tony Barrett on Robbie Fowler: "You could list all of Robbie's goals but I think the thing that separates him from the other Liverpool centre forwards is that he's always had this feeling among the fans of being a kindred spirit. There are countless examples of things he's done for fans and done for the people of the city. It wouldn't matter if Robbie never scored another goal for Liverpool Football Club as he's made his feelings for the club known and the fans returned those feelings."

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