Selling Fowler: Thou Shalt No Other Gods But
By Steve Kelly, John Green, Chris Smith, Frank
Murphy and Allerton Al
From Issue 54, Winter 2001
So that's that. So ends the longest running farce
since Brian Rix's 20 year West End run in "Whoops
Vicar, Those Are My Trousers". The club's
contempt for its supporters plumbed new depths,
while its' current estimation of Liverpudlian
intelligence ranks alongside that of a studio
audience for 'Tricia'. The sad thing is that,
in some quarters, their estimation proved to be
For out and out fans like me, it's been particularly
sad because 2000/2001 definitely saw the re-emergence
of Robbie Fowler. As bad as I've been with predictions
in the past, I know Robbie will never reach the
same heights he achieved between '94 and '97.
It wouldn't matter if he played for Real, never
mind Leeds, he'll never be as good as he was.
That still doesn't mean he couldn't have done
a good job for us. Last season at least saw a
genuine improvement, and the propaganda that has
poured forth since (often from Liverpool fans
themselves) to deny that FACT has been little
short of disgraceful.
I've grown sick and tired of fans who repeated
like parrots that misleading little nugget "Oh,
he's only scored 40 goals in the last 4 seasons".
Yeah, but there were 17 in one year - a year in
which we won 3 trophies, and to even try to take
away or diminish his part in the Treble borders
on the spiteful. His goal ratio was better than
Heskey's: he almost equalled Emile's tally, but
for two missed penalties, two shots against the
woodwork and two mysteriously disallowed goals.
That's despite featuring in far fewer matches
and never being given a settled role in the side.
He was also involved in the creation of more goals
than Emile, too. The only thing that he could
not match him for was work-rate, and in the new
regime that counts for an awful lot more than
goal scoring or (whisper this particular sacrilege)
While everyone rightly rushed forth to kneel
at the feet of "The Little Genius" for
his marvellous exploits at Cardiff, it was conveniently
forgotten that Fowler could and should have had
two cup final winners. But for the last-minute
idiocy of Henchoz and Westerveld, Robbie's fantastic
strikes against Birmingham and Alaves would have
made him an even bigger hero on Merseyside, and
also much harder to dump him. Consider this: Fowler
could have scored the winning goal for our first
trophy in 6 years, the one that set us on the
way to a piece of history. He could have had the
winning goal that secured that moment in history.
He DID score the goal that set us on the way to
clinching Champions League football, and while
fans excuse his sale on the dubious basis of an
imaginary stall for a Bosman move, it's worth
remembering that the £20-30m Liverpool FC
will earn from this year's European endeavours
wouldn't have been possible but for numerous contributions
from Fowler last season. And yet the snides still
repeat their pathetic mantra: "ah, get rid,
he's done nothing for five years". Absolutely
Conspiracy theorists are waiting to find out what
happened during the summer to make the management
believe that all of the above was a trifle, a
mere epilogue at the end of a mostly-brilliant
Liverpool career. Perhaps nothing happened at
all, and Houllier simply decided that Fowler wasn't
needed. It was hard to view the events of August
as anything other than propaganda. Training ground
spats are ten a penny in football, and it wouldn't
have been difficult to keep it under wraps. It
may have become part of a column by odious tabloid
shit stirrers like David Maddock, but it would
never have become a national 'story' if it hadn't
have been for Fowler's exclusion from the Charity
Shield 18. That made it news, and even the good
guys in journalism like Winter, Lawton, Holt etc
now had to discuss his exclusion and consider
What followed next was petty and actually damaging
to Liverpool FC. It could have been dealt with
internally, but it was Houllier himself who chose
the alternative route. With his three trophies,
he now felt as if he could take on the last vestige
of Evans' reign, no matter what he had contributed
to those 3 trophies that had given him so much
power. I believe a decision was taken there and
then, probably even earlier. Fowler was out, and
no amount of goals would have changed Houllier's
mind. Even after the squad was reduced to two
fit strikers, there was still no reprieve for
Robbie, and Houllier sycophants everywhere were
only too happy to blame Fowler for this managerial
intransigence and quote his weak "factory
boss" analogy. Fowler apologised, and the
manager still called him a scoundrel! Clearly,
this was not going to have a happy ending.
The number of incidents that smelt of hypocrisy
started to pile up. One player, and one player
only, was publicly criticised. Dishonest and soul
destroying comparisons to Rush and Hunt were not
designed to build up shattered confidence, but
to further undermine it. Fans slammed Fowler for
his "childish" response to being subbed
at Bolton, and yet when Owen was clearly pissed
off about being replaced at Blackburn, Thommo
was all over him like a rash: "Oh I'm glad
to see that response, I'd be upset if he wasn't
annoyed". That wasn't what was said at the
Reebok, in fact Robbie was chided by Houllier
for his lack of respect for team mates. When he
scored 3 at Leicester City, Phil T talked about
how he "still had some room for improvement",
while Heskey went game after game after game without
scoring and was told he was "absolutely fantastic"!
The end, when it came, was almost as ruthless
as Westerveld's. I had no problem with the half
time substitution against Sunderland, it was totally
the correct decision - though it stacked up with
all the other times that Robbie was subbed. Amidst
all the guff about why Fowler was sold, nobody
from the club has come clean: that Liverpool do
not intend to play the kind of football any more
where Fowler could flourish, that they now intend
to make our style strictly one-dimensional and
replace Fowler (and Litmanen) with carbon copies
of Owen and Heskey. The smokescreen was so thick
it suffocated: Robbie chose to go, the club wanted
him to stay, his reluctance to sign a contract
exacerbated the fear of another Bosman, Fowler
could not handle rotation.
Bullshit, every single word of it. At least Parry
had the balls to come clean about his accountantly
(???) fear of ending up with no fee for him, but
the rest was undiluted drivel. How anyone could
believe that Liverpool wanted to keep him after
everything that's been said and done is a mystery,
but sadly there were enough thickies around for
this to become 'fact'. Stories have emerged that
a new contract wasn't even on offer, and compared
to the "whatever he wants" settlement
with Owen Robbie must have felt that was the final
straw. As for 'rotation', Fowler could not accept
what was laughably called Rotation at Anfield,
and was rarely if ever given a good run in the
side to improve his touch and fitness while the
two main strikers were always given consecutive
matches no matter how much they screwed up.
Fowler has also been blamed for a lot, like the
lack of a good chant for Owen! Sorry, but that's
the Kop's fault and Fowler can have no influence
whatsoever on how many times the name of Michael
Owen is sung. Even at Derby, the Riise song got
bawled out far more and with the merest of excuses
("I wanna knoooow, how you won that throw")
- I suppose that's Fowler's fault too? The lack
of opportunities for Litmanen was also put at
Fowler's door, and it was risible to read some
Liverpool fans claiming Litmanen would get more
games now. Read my lips: N
Jari is even less likely to fit in with the new
'style', and he'll be the next one out. Some have
even blamed Robbie for the unhelpful ramblings
of a certain journalist, so let's see if that
'misinformation' ends now Robbie is at Leeds.
Somehow, I seriously doubt it. Those who even
claimed Fowler had something to do with Gerard's
condition aren't even worthy of contempt - just
I suppose this is where I wax lyrical about Fowler's
career at Anfield, but I'll save it because this
article is getting out of hand. Maybe next issue?
It shouldn't be necessary anyway. If anyone doesn't
know that this was the best Liverpool player of
the 90's, a period that has now suffered hysterical
historical revision, then where have you been?
As Colin McCabe said to me in one of his e mails,
"I'd like to see you do one of those 'greatest
career moment' overviews and manage to keep the
list below 50". I'll have a go, but don't
expect it to be short. Fowler has given me almost
as much pleasure as Dalglish and Barnes, and if
Liverpool do manage to get a new third-choice
striker who can nab 17 goals a season they'll
have done extremely well and made the right decision.
I suppose that's the bottom line, isn't it? The
slimy Maddock droned on about Fowler's hat trick
at Leicester and his busy performance at Boavista,
"then he was dropped for the next three matches".
That was it, though; end of paragraph. So I shall
complete it for him: "those three games were
Charlton 0 Liverpool 2, Liverpool 2 Dortmund 0
and Liverpool 3 Manchester United 1". The
word you were searching for, Davy Boy, is "vindicated".
No matter what we Fowler supporters say, the team
is top with a game in hand with hardly any help
from Robbie. A longer run of wins would help enormously
with our title ambitions and, like Jerzy Dudek
replacing Westerveld, the ends will be seen to
justify the means.
But did the means have to be so manipulative,
so dishonest, so brutal? This is a Liverpool Great
we're talking about here. I can't help but feel
that a short-term gain will be offset by a long-term
reputation that will be incredibly difficult to
shake off. After all, what centre forward will
come to Anfield knowing that what happened to
Robbie could also happen to him?
Having just seen the Teletext highlight the impending
move of Robbie Fowler, I have tried to analyse
the pros and cons of the move.
1. Robbie is never going to get a starting place
ahead of a fit Michael Owen. If Lazio offer £50M
for Michael and only £14M for Robbie, what
does that tell you about other teams' perception
of the two strikers? Do we want another scenario
of a quality player leaving Anfield for nothing
under the Bosman Ruling?
2. Robbie has not liked the squad system, and
has shall we say "blotted his copybook"
with a couple of spats around the City, a disagreement
with Phil Thompson, and a flurry of unsubstantiated
rumours about other less socially acceptable habits
following him around. In other words, he has not
conducted himself in a professional manner.
3. Robbie has had a string of injuries over the
last two or three seasons and has never really
shown more than a few glimpses of the old magic.
He has at times looked sluggish in his movement,
and at other times the body language has indicated
a "couldn't care less attitude" (Bolton
away this season!). If you get a chance to play
at the level we as a team aspire to, then you
would sweat blood to take the opportunity if it
is given. Robbie has failed to do this on more
than one occasion. Have the injuries taken their
toll? He will never be the player who scored goals
like the nutmeg through Staunton's legs, and the
semi-final goal at OT versus Villa?
4. Indiscipline led to the wilderness years at
Liverpool. The "Spice Boys" image, the
white suits, mobile phones ringing-ten-to-the-dozen.
Ruddock, Macca, and Robbie were all part of that
image. Houllier has lay down a code of behaviour
that Robbie appears to have a dislike for and
would not or could not conform to. Do we want
to revert to trophy-less years or do we want to
build upon last season's success?
5. What was Robbie's reaction to the subbing against
Sunderland following the sending off of Hamann
? Would he have "ran his socks off"
unselfishly like Heskey did, and ultimately win
us the game? I think a Robbie of three years ago
would have done, but I very much doubt if he has
the ability to do it nowadays.
1. Have we shot ourselves in the foot/scored the
biggest own goal in Championship history, by selling
a player to a main rival for the title? I have
a horrible feeling that this may come back to
haunt us in a big way.
2. Have the Club finally swallowed "hook,
line and sinker" the ramblings of a national
press, who seem intent on causing trouble within
the Club at every opportunity? If Robbie has finally
let the press get to him, shame on Robbie, the
Club and the hacks for letting it get to such
a state. The Club should start naming and shaming
these morons and banning them and their rags from
the Press Box. Isn't it funny how something always
seems to materialise on the eve or day of a big
3. Rush apart, Robbie has been the most natural
finisher in the Premiership. A fit Robbie would
guarantee goals which may lead to our first title
for so many years.
4. Talking of fitness, can we trust the fitness
of Michael Owen who seems to have niggle after
niggle lately? We do not have any quality back-up,
either. We need to re-invest and purchase a quality
forward as soon as possible. Please don't let
it be Dwight Yorke!
5. Does Robbie think that by going to Leeds that
he will not fall foul of the squad rotation system
This started off as a list to convince me the
Club were right, but I notice that I have as many
Cons as Pros. He hasn't delivered the goods of
late when given the opportunity, but why do I
feel uneasy about the move? Let us hope that come
May, a Premier League crown will once again justify
Houllier/Thompson's decision making in the re-emergence
as a major force of the Club that we love - the
Jury is definitely "out" on this episode,
and only time will tell.
Keep the Faith,
Well I hardly know where to start. It's Wednesday
night, Robbie has agreed personal terms at Leeds
and tomorrow he will sign for £11million
after passing a medical. How do I feel? Gutted.
Angry. And desperately sad.
Houllier has finally won the End Game and sent
Robbie packing. I, for one, will find it hard
to forgive him, despite the fact I know full well
that he has caused a wonderful rebirth at Anfield.
Let's get this absolutely straight - this move
has nothing to do with footballing ability. This
boils down to the fact that Houllier could not
bear Robbie's popularity with the Anfield faithful.
I am not saying that it is because Houllier is
so egotistical that he wanted to be number one
in the popularity stakes. But he obviously believes,
wrongly, that Robbie's popularity was bad for
his precious team ethic.
You are wrong, Gerard. What's really galling was
the way Houllier has gone about the whole business.
He has orchestrated this move for at least the
past 18 months - and probably since he took sole
charge. He was hoping that he would break Robbie's
resolve and get him to ask for a transfer request
so he could turn round to us fans and say 'I didn't
want Robbie to go but he wanted to go. What else
could I do?'. But unfortunately for Houllier,
Robbie's love and respect for the club was so
great that he was not for breaking.
Robbie put up with outrageously barbed comments
in the Press from Houllier, regularly questioning
his fitness, commitment and even ability on occasions.
He even backed down after the 'Phil Thompson affair'
and apologised, despite the version of events
I believe to be true would suggest that he had
no reason to do so. Eventually, the unbelievable
way Robbie was treated regarding team selection
- or should I say lack of it - has finally seen
Take note: Robbie still didn't ask to go, but
the club accepting Leeds' offer made it crystal
clear that he had no future at the club. In fact,
just hours before news of the move broke yesterday,
there was nonsense on the official web site that
Robbie was in fresh talks over a new contract.
Yet more lies from the club about Robbie. I am
so angry about the whole affair.
Let's examine Robbie Fowler's performances in
2001 - in the circumstances they haven't been
too bad at all. He played exceptionally well in
the home leg against Crystal Palace in the Worthington
Cup, away at Leeds in the FA Cup, and at home
to West Ham in the league to name but three occasions
last season. And of course he scored that beauty
at Cardiff against Birmingham. Oh, and don't forget
his little contribution in the UEFA Cup final.
And the goal against Wycombe. And his sublime
double at Charlton. Need I go on? But it didn't
matter what he did on the pitch. Houllier had
decided he would force him out by picking Owen
and Heskey as his first choice whatever happened
- even if one of them went on a 16 game goalless
streak. The message was abundantly clear.
Given one opportunity to shine, Robbie put Houllier's
recovery back a little by scoring a top hat-trick
at Leicester. But no, that wasn't good enough
to keep his place. The whole thing is a scandal.
Yes, on occasions this season he has struggled
with his touch and fitness - but is that surprising
when he is playing so intermittently? And of course
when he has played, it is in the framework of
a team exclusively set up to feed the strengths
of Owen and Heskey even when they weren't playing.
The implications of this in itself are worrying.
It means that the ridiculously negative performance
I witnessed at Ewood Park the other week is going
to continue. I will probably rant on about that
on another occasion. But back to Robbie.
The implications of him going to one of our title
rivals are worrying, and surely too much of a
risk. Do you remember how much Leeds were left
to rue the sale by Mad Howard of Cantona to Man
United in 1992? There is a serious danger of history
repeating itself here. And if Robbie shoots Leeds
to the title, then should Houllier be sacked?
Is his judgement misguided due to his friendship
with O'Dearie? I think it has been seriously misguided
and if the nightmare scenario mentioned above
does come true, to me Houllier is negligent. And
what about this £11m price tag. Am I alone
in thinking this is scandalously low? Robbie no
better than (£11m) Frank Lampard, not as
good as (£12.6m) Dwight Yorke, not in the
same league as (£15m) Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink?
I don't think so.
Typically, the official line coming out of the
club is they didn't want to lose him for nothing.
Bollocks. If you have got one of the very best,
you take a risk. And they have never worried about
being crap in the transfer market before, have
they? The whole business stinks and has left me
feeling physically sick - the worst I have felt
since the news that Kenny had quit. I hope my
doom and gloom can lift as the season goes on,
and let me make it perfectly clear that I will
still be giving my wholehearted support at each
game, including to Houllier.
But a little part of my love has died at the moment.
I just wish it had never come to this.
I don't want to kick a man whilst he's down but
it looks like Le Boss and the tactically witless
one have finally achieved what they've been trying
to do since they arrived at the helm (and Redknapp's
next and last). Both sides have started the propaganda
- Parry fuck off! Whereas Maddock was spinning
Robbie's yarn in his rag, the fact is this yarn
is the truth. The lad wants to play and he knows
he'd never get a chance with Michael and the undroppable
one ahead of him.
I hope that they have a very, very good replacement
lined up and I don't mean that sexaholic, rubber
doll- shagging porno star from United. We need
quality along the lines of Henry/ Trezeguet/Anelka
or even one of those two muppets currently (temporarily)
occupying the Leeds forward line! Or this lad
Finally, thanks Robbie and good luck (you could
give the title to Leeds).
Well Gerard, Phil, Rick, David, I hope you know
what you are doing. If Leeds beat us to the title
this season or push us out of a Champions League
place due to the sale of Mr R Fowler then I hope
you all know the way out of Liverpool. Eleven
fucking Million???? Sale of the Century used to
come from Norwich. Not any more, and it's been
like that all the time under Houllier. It now
comes from Anfield. The Leeds fans who took the
time to call me in work weren't phoning to see
how my office stationary Levels were, but to thank
Liverpool for their generosity over Robbie. They
actually couldn't believe we sold him for 11 million.
I mean for fuck's sake jug ears over the park
cost Arsenal 10 million and he's just a jumped
up little shit. And I have said to you previously
Robbie is the most natural goal scorer ever. To
sell him to our title rivals is just plain stupid.
We can all say he is not fit, doesn't look motivated
etc but even on Sunday there was a glimpse of
what Robbie can do when the Sunderland defender
slipped and Robbie forced in a shot. Watch the
replays and it was going in until the swerve on
the ball took it away at the last second.
Leicester away, what a hat trick. The third goal
summed Robbie up. No-one picked him up and he
didn't blast that volley in, he passed it into
the back of the net. I know Liverpool can point
to the fact that he only had 18 months left in
his contract and they didn't want him to do a
Stevie Mac, but why did talks break down in the
summer and why didn't Liverpool do more about
getting them restarted? You now only have 1 spice
boy left and Jamie, you are out of contract in
the summer and I can't see the club offering you
more than a one year deal. Paddy is also in the
final stages of his contract and Mr Houllier has
done a pretty ruthless job getting rid of all
Evans signings and players apart from Jamie Carragher
and the Blue eyed boy Danny. This is your team
now and the fans don't like seeing one of their
own forced out. I have said we played a different
way to the way Robbie was used to but surely with
encouragement he could have fitted in to this
I am sad to see Robbie go. I have always liked
him, he is one of us out there, a scally given
a chance. He lets you down now and again but mostly
he gets you what you want. From last season I
will always remember his goal in the semi against
Wycombe when the fan ran on and the steward slide
tackled Robbie. How many other players would have
reacted the way Robbie did, diving on him and
taking the piss? So long Robbie, you are up there
with Rushie and Sir Roger in my eyes. Just don't
do it for Leeds, because I hope this doesn't come
back and haunt us.
Come in number 9, your time's up.
So Robbie's finally gone. Can't say I'm surprised.
I think the writing has been on the wall for some
time now. It's been quite interesting listening
to all the phone ins and reading the views of
Echo readers. I think that Gerard Houllier and
Phil Thompson have come in for some unwarranted
and unnecessary criticism over the whole affair.
Robbie Fowler has shown that he still has the
ability to score some exquisite goals at the highest
level and on the biggest stage. Last year's Worthington
Cup Final, the recent England international against
Albania and his hat trick at Leicester support
this. What Robbie Fowler has not shown for some
time now, is that he can do this on a consistent
basis. In my opinion, Robbie has appeared sluggish
(at times disinterested) for between 2 and 3 years
now. I think that the root of the problem is that
he has never really recovered from that terrible
injury - I've heard that it really was touch and
go as to whether he would even play again. Sure
we've seen flashes of his genius since but can
anyone honestly say that Robbie has been anywhere
near as sharp as he was prior to the injury?
And having seen Robbie's performances during this
time (and on the training ground too no doubt),
I believe that Gerard and Phil have reached the
conclusion that if a decent enough offer was on
the table, then the time was now right to seriously
consider such an offer. That's not to say that
the management team (or myself) haven't been hoping
that Robbie would rediscover himself in a red
shirt. Of course we have. But perhaps the sands
of time are running out and with the threat of
McManaman revisited looming on the horizon, £11m
now is better business than losing him on a Bosman
I mentioned at the top that I wasn't really surprised
by the decision to sell. Two things do surprise
me however. Firstly the decision to sell him to
one of our title rivals. Secondly, the fee. Leeds
have recently paid £9m for Seth "who?"
Johnson from Derby and Arsenal paid £8m
rising to £10m for Franny 'jug ears' Jeffers.
How many games did he play for the Blueslime?........scoring
how many goals? By these comparisons Robbie is
surely worth at least £15m?
We should however also respect Robbie's view.
He knows that the World Cup is just around the
corner and realises that his best chances of selection
will come if he is playing first team football
(is he guaranteed that at Leeds?). After all this
may be his last chance to perform on the World
stage. So rather than getting caught up in issues
such as the bust up with Thommo, his frustrations
with the squad rotation system and whether or
not he has difficulty playing second fiddle to
younger rising stars, I'd much prefer to wish
Robbie all the best and say thanks for all the
wonderful memories he's given us down the years.
When the dust finally settles, I think that this
will probably prove to be the best thing for both
Robbie and Liverpool Football Club.