God's Job's A Good 'Un?
By Ian Rogan
From Issue 50, Winter 2001
Round and round it goes, where will it stop?
Nobody knows. The head-spinning, vomit-inducing,
daily merry-go-round that is the Robbie Fowler
side-show continues unabashed throughout the national
press. Let's face facts here, the merry-go-round
will not stop unless it's anywhere other than
Anfield. Chelsea? Arsenal? Milan? Rangers? Leeds?
(deep breath) Man Utd? The papers won't rest unless
Robbie ends up packing his bags.
The latest perceived indiscretion of Robbie's
- being lamped in The Wonder Bar - is just what
the Fleet St. and Wapping hacks have been waiting
for in their continued attempts to put the pressure
on Liverpool to off-load him.
"Aah", I hear you say, "but he
shouldn't be in a pub at 2am on a weekday".
Not even if he's got the following day off? It's
a pretty sad indictment of today's modern society
in which a lad cannot go for a drink in his own
city. Where are we when we cannot sit down with
our friends and girlfriends and enjoy a couple
of beers, without slack jawed gawkers invading
our private space and intent on their own fifteen
seconds of infamy?
Robbie will point out quite justifiably that he
should be able to go wherever the hell he wants,
whenever the hell he wants. Regrettably, his point,
no matter how valid I personally feel it may be,
is ultimately misguided and sadly redundant when
applied to the big-name star going outside in
the small confines of the city centre. Tragically
I feel this captures the very zeitgeist of today's
life. We have a disturbing and self-pitying tendency
to put these stars, celebrities and bright lights
on some kind of superior, ethereal plain where
us mortals dare not venture. We are unaware that
this very act is personally demeaning and what
it suggests about our own level of self-importance
is disconcerting. We gawp, awe-struck, neck jerked
backwards, our eyes blinded until they might deign
to proffer us with a smile or a signature. When
did obtaining a scribble of ink, a photograph
or a mumbled greeting suddenly become the Holy
Grail of the Football Supporter? Why are these
gestures so zealously requested? As if their very
reciprocation validates us as a Fan. "Hey,
look at me everyone, Robbie Fowler just stood
on my toe and I've got the photograph. That means
I'm so much more of a person and supporter than
you could ever dream of being". I can understand
this compulsion amongst our much younger supporters
but must it be such a necessity to the grown men
amongst the population?
There are many people who will state that all
of this comes with the territory and they may
well have a point. Up to a point. Yes, he is extremely
well paid and enjoys all the creature comforts,
tacky sports cars and gold embossed wrought-iron
gates you or I can only have nightmares about.
Yes, they can take their pick of lucrative sports
equipment endorsements and reprehensible catalogue
photo opportunities. Yes, they can plunge themselves
knackers deep into most of the giggling, vacuous,
empty headed bimbettes they can shake their News
of the World exclusives at. Nonetheless, when
we take a step back, does this really take away
his right as a Liverpool Citizen to leave his
home with his partner and enjoy a tipple, no matter
in whichever pie-encrusted, sordid little grief
hole it may be? When did these people, yes that's
right people, human beings remember, become our
No matter what the fiscal rewards are, can we
really expect guys like Robbie to effectively
become prisoners in their own castle? How long
will it be before he decides the goldfish bowl
of Liverpool is suddenly reducing in circumference
and he might be best advised to swim elsewhere?
Apologies for shabby metaphorical drivel here
but I'm just keeping this paragraph in commensurate
proportion with typical Wapping journo-speak in
their seemingly endless, orchestrated campaign
to oust Robbie from Anfield.
A lot of you may think that I'm missing the point
here and that Robbie has a duty to physically
look after his body and recuperate properly between
games. Again, this is a well-made point but it's
easy to exaggerate. It never did our eighties
players any harm and I'm really not too bothered
about the players having a pint. Just as long
as they're not legless the night before a game.
We must remember that the players had the following
day off in this instance. Even if Robbie enjoyed
a couple of pints, he's got all of the next day
to relax. It's hardly the end of the world.
It's all too easy for us Liverpool supporters
to blindly stick up for our players no matter
what and to view the world through rose-tinted
spectacles. A sense of proportion and plenty of
perspective needs to be applied. Liverpudlians
(and Scousers in particular) are labelled as generally
paranoid and possessing a tendency to wallow in
self-pity. We build invisible walls around the
city. "Oh why does everybody pick on us?
It's so unfair!"
However, as far as Robbie is concerned I think
we have a bona fide point. After his goal-celebration
against Everton he was handed a six-match ban.
At roughly the same time Le Saux was given a two-game
ban for physically assaulting Robbie. So the message
being sent was "Actual assault is less harmful
than having a laugh". Who can forget the
collective loving arm thrown around Paul Merson
when he admitted to actually taking coke rather
than pretending to take it?
Of course all of this would not be so accentuated
and pronounced if we were talking about your common
or garden footballer. Would this daily media bilge-fest
be so underlined if we were talking about a first
division clogger or even someone with a modicum
of ability in the top flight? Of course not. We
are talking about one of the greatest players
to ever pull on the red shirt of Liverpool FC.
Consequently, this can be added to the perceived
cheeky-chappy, glint in the eye, Toxteth scally
persona. The hacks are left with the kind of calculation
that they can't add up quickly enough. This can
only equate to the sort of perennial and professional
character assassination, which we've had to furrow
our brows over these last few weeks.
No, this is Robbie Fowler. One of the best. I
think a lot of fans actually forget how good Fowler
was. Either that or they simple did not witness
it. The list of highlights we can pluck from the
archives are numerous and wistfully none too recent.
I don't want to get bogged down in listing the
top 20 Fowler goals or anything quite as anorak-ish
(although I would actually enjoy reading the differing
opinions). Nevertheless, it would be churlish
and even inhuman for a Liverpudlian if they could
delete that yearning pang when we remember say,
his overhead back-flick and volley against Bergen.
Turning Staunton inside out and rifling in from
30 yards. Showing a static Rush new tricks against
Fulham. Overshadowing Cantona's comeback. Four-minute
hat tricks. 100 goals quicker than Rush, Hunt
or anyone. Any goal at all against Everton. Especially
ones that see him pretend to snort goal lines.
Then go back and do it again (did anyone else
get past all the sanctimonious creeps on the moral
high-ground and think this was absolutely hilarious?)
And, of course, nailing his colours to the mast
(sorry) when revealing his support for the doCKers.
Balanced against all that of course were all his
goals that kept Souness in his job. Ah well, never
mind. What struck me about Fowler was not just
the amount of goals that he scored but the sheer
range of goals. Headers, long-range, tap-ins,
one-on-ones, curlers, chips, he possessed the
complete spectrum, the whole gamut and full gallimaufry
of net-bulging proficiency. As a supreme exponent
of sticking the ball in the onion bag (Brian),
Liverpool has simply had nobody better. And, thankfully,
we've still got him.
I'm well aware that most of the eulogy above is
in the past tense. As if I am subconsciously telling
myself that we've
already seen the best of him. Sadly, I do think
this is the case. Notwithstanding, an 80% Robbie
Fowler is still better than most and to hear the
advice that we should bite Chelsea's hands off
for £12 million is frankly insulting and
not a little unsettling when uttered from the
mouths of Liverpudlians. Steven mentioned in the
last issue that one thing football fans have is
faith. Even after the Slater Street event and
the subsequent outcry, Robbie still polled 70%
on the Koptalk.com vote on who the fans thought
was Liverpool's best striker. On an ITV Teletext
poll, 85% of the votes said that he should stay
at Anfield. So you should expect an article from
the odious Ken Lawrence at the Mail entitled "Why
do Liverpool Fans Hate Robbie Fowler So Much?"
since 15% said he shouldn't.
Conversely, Robbie's own faith in his club and
his native city must be frayed to the point of
him feeling that his mind is being made up for
him. Ultimately, he may opt to jump before he
thinks he may be pushed. What must it feel like
to constantly be at the butt-end of derogatory
comments, rumour and counter rumour as the grazed
knuckles of some gap-toothed Neanderthal connect
with your soon-to-be flattened nose? You'd feel
like calling it a day wouldn't you? Unfortunately,
I feel that time may be imminent for Robbie and
I for one think it would be a tragedy if he ever
appeared in anything other than the crimson of
Oh and by the way Chris Bascombe, if you're going
to make comments like "some star players
have not performed well for far too long, full
stop. Everyone knows who they are but won't say
", then at least have the guts
yourself to name who you mean.
In fairness to Chris, that's probably the fastest
route to the dole queue. And then we get Ric George
back. You have to read between the lines sometimes,
and clearly Chris' intention was picked up by