I was eleven years old when Robbie Fowler made his debut for Liverpool. Being born in the early 80’s, Liverpool was always going to be an obvious choice as the club I would support, the history and success of the club seeping into me as an impressionable youngster.
My love for the club however was taken to another level in the early 1990s. Liverpool’s glory years may have been, mostly, in the past and we were going through the rather disappointing ‘Souness period’ of management, but for me there was one shining light as Robbie Fowler was promoted to our first team.
Here was an 18 year-old kid from Toxteth thrown into an ageing Liverpool team, and my word did he bring it to life. His debut against Fulham in a League Cup first round tie in 1993 was marked with a goal. No one could have asked for more but Robbie wasn’t the type of player to rest on his laurels. Just two weeks later in the second leg and he went and scored all five goals before scoring his first league hat-trick in just his fifth league game against Southampton. The Kop had seen the coming of God.
Between 1993 and 2001, God, as Fowler was affectionately called by the Anfield faithful, gave me some of my favourite football memories. Often described as a ‘loveable rogue’, he courted plenty of controversy; whether it was ‘snorting’ the white lines on pitch or publically standing up for the sacked dockers on Merseyside, Fowler was the ultimate people’s player.
Then there are his goals. He scored a ridiculous goal against FC Brann in a Cup Winners’ Cup tie, nonchalantly flicking the ball over the defenders head from a Stig Inge Bjornebye header before running onto the ball and volleying into the bottom corner with his magical left boot.
In 1994, he scored the fastest hat-trick in Premiership history; with the 4mins 33secs it took him do it against Arsenal never being bettered and still a Premier League record.
It’s 1995 and Eric Cantona has just returned to league action after his lengthy ban, all the Sky cameras are on him at Old Trafford. United take a 1-0 lead through Nicky Butt of all people and then it happens. Steve McManaman puts Fowler in a position to run onto Peter Schmeichel’s goal but he is so wide on the left, with no support and nothing will come of it. The next thing you know, the ball has exploded off his left foot (note to Jamie Redknapp: Not literally) and has beaten Schmeichel at his near post, leaving him prone on the floor as if he had received a right hook off Ali.
As if that wasn’t enough, in the second half, Michael Thomas slid the ball through to Fowler who in almost an identical position to the first goal, decides to go with the polar opposite and dinks a curling chip with his right foot over Schmeichel before he even knows what’s happened. The fact the game ended 2-2 thanks to a Cantona penalty was irrelevant. Robbie Fowler had just made the Premiership’s best goalkeeper ever look average at best.
In a perfect world, Fowler would have stayed and seen out his career with the reds but injuries slowed both him and his career down. He returned to Liverpool between 2006 and 2007, an event which left me grinning for weeks and as excitable as a 6 year-old in a chocolate factory, offering bits of Fowler genius but his career had definitely peaked by this point.
With a total of 183 goals in 369 games for Liverpool along with a total of 163 Premier League goals (still fourth highest in Premiership history) he has always been a natural finisher, even scoring 9 goals in 26 appearances for North Queensland Fury last year. Amazingly, he wasn’t a typical poacher though, having the ability to, regularly, score with either foot or his head and from one yard or thirty yards making him my perfect, and favourite, number 9.
Thanks be to God.