Remember the name: Robbie Fowler

Posted by JamesG L4 on August 17, 2006, 04:15:09 PM

‘Remember the name… Robbie Fowler…’

With the new season but a day away it’s time to bask in the annual excitement of the year ahead. The mood of optimism has been buoyed by perceptive movements in the transfer market, which have added depth and variety to Rafa’s squad. Jigsaws and cogs have been debated far and wide, and every Red has a opinion why this year will be ours. My reason isn’t so reasoned, I think we’ll be marching to number nineteen this season because of Robert Bernard Fowler, Liverpool Number 9.

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As most of us did, I devoured Robbie’s autobiography, ‘My Story’, and loved every sentence, until the final chapters. I felt the ending just didn’t do justice to Robbie, it seemed as though all the promise of his career had just faded away into nothingness. In Poetics, Aristotle lays the foundation for story structure we know as Three Act Structure. When Robbie resigned for the mighty reds, everything fell into place and Robbie’s Story had a final act worthy of his legend.

The first glorious act was from 1993 – 1998. Aristotle tells us the first act ‘introduces the character and the dramatic premise’. Well the main character is Robbie Fowler, and the dramatic premise is simple, the return of the league championship to its rightful home. From 1995 – 1998 Fowler was on a different plain, somedays you could tell by his first few touches if he was going to score, somedays he was so electric in the first ten minutes of a game you would sit back and wait for another hat trick.   

During the years of 1993 to 1998, I traversed the ages 16 to 21. What glorious years for a young man! Important discoveries are made every week, every day even. Irvine Welsh’s ‘Trainspotting’ one week, The Smiths’ ‘The Queen Is Dead’ the next, which came just after somebody had passed you a copy of ‘The Velvet Underground and Nico’. A time when a maelstrom of Books, Records, Movies and Comedians are feverishly swapped around friends as young men began to get to know themselves and the world they are about to step into.  And as the voices of Bob Dylan and Stanley Kubrick opened up the world for us, the perfect foil was Robbie Fowler, who was just about setting the planet on fire with his football.

As you fall in love with albums, it comes commonplace to find out most of these bands and artists were either long since split up, simply not touring anymore or plain dead. With just echoes of greatness it’s hard, as you have a need to go and see it all for yourself, go to the gigs and experience it all first hand. The Scottish band, Mogwai were the band that did it for us, as here was a band that was, to us, as good as any that had gone before, and going to Glasgow full of filth, fury and naughtiness to watch them live was as good as life gets. They were the link, they became part of the lineage to the great bands like the Smiths and The Stone Roses we had missed out on first time around, and we had got to see them live. Vitally, they were ours and we had the stories to tell.

Liverpool was a club bereft at the time, lost in awkward formations of mediocre players who were occasionally brilliant but often average. The last time Liverpool had won the league I was 12. My dad, granddad, uncles – all fact in fact all the adults in my life - had seen the greats, the insurmountable league and European triumphs, all these great Liverpool victories seeping out of our crest season after season. I’d sway in the Kop and laugh at the stories of champagne in the fountains of Rome and dancing in the alleyways of Soho, and for sure I was proud of it all, but it all felt a bit remote to me. I had been there in the 80s, but I had been a child standing in front of my father, I hadn’t been there full of beer and song, waving my flag on the terraces with my best mates. When I was 17 that’s what I wanted more than anything, and all shouts of ’18 league championships, 4 European cups’ would remain something I would shout and feel pride in, but not quite feel part of until the day it was ’19 League Championships’, or ‘5 European cups’. (I think that’s why we take so much pride with the ‘5 Times’ celebration, as a whole new generation felt a whole renewed connection with the past on the 25th May 2005.)

In Robbie Fowler I could see the lineage, the links to St. John, Souness, Dalglish and Rush in their absolute pomp. In an era were Liverpool struggled for self-identity and stability, Fowler was something fucking great to hold onto. You know, sometimes it was like, we don’t have the trophies right now, but we do have Robbie Fowler. He was vital in my education as a red, as he was the first moment of greatness I that was mine and he gave me stories to tell my children.

And in this zeitgeist Fowler became my hero.

Coming of age you need heroes; writers, comedians, musicians, players, people that can situate you in the lineage of all world you are growing into. We’ll all have different bands and players, but they provide us same function.  When I was reading and listening to artists these authors from a around the world, it was important to see somebody almost the same age from Liverpool who was great, as great as anyone I read or listened to, because it gave me faith in where I was from and what I believed in. I had read all the books about the reds, watched the classic ‘Liverpool In Europe’ VHS so many times it crackled, and here was a player who was animating, rather than talking about, the tradition of our club.

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The knee ligament injury in 1998 which kept Robbie out for half a season, against, who else, Everton, opens the curtain on the second act, which lasts from about 1998 - 2006. In Act Two, ‘the main character's attempt to reach his goal is thwarted again and again. Each change leads to a new obstacle standing between him and the final goal’. Unwarranted stories circulated around Liverpool, problems with fitness, spats with Thompson, left out of the team for big games and finally a move away from Anfield to Leeds; so many obstacles faced Robbie that it seemed a certainty the dream of watching Robbie lift the championship was over.

This isn’t how it’s supposed to be with modern day footballers, the closest these flaccid honey voiced posterboys get to drama is how they get their ‘killer’ final contract off the richest clubs, or how young they can get some hack to ghost write dire supermarket autobiographies that hold as much interest as trolley dash in the Everton Club Shop.  Not Robbie Fowler, just as his first act had been sublime his second act was full of incident and high drama.

Watching Robbie for other clubs didn’t sit right, he looked greasy and unfit in other club’s colours. (But he still had the touch, that never, every left him) For me, the lowest point was when Norwich wanted to take Robbie off Man City’s hands. Retirement was even mentioned a few times. An autobiography was released and devoured and it all seemed set to end on whimper.

***

The final act is called the ‘resolution’, where we see the character solves the story problem and reaches his goal. Robbie’s unexpected final act was initiated by Rafa on 27th January 2006. He has been given the red number 9 jersey and we sit, waiting for the curtain to peel away and the final act to commence. We have all been watching this unfold for eleven years, a true Kubrickian drama full of spellbinding highs and humiliating lows, astonishing goals and moments unforgettable.

I’ve heard him dismissed on the forum as ‘fan fluffer’, ‘unfit’ and ‘too old’. By all accounts he’s as fit as he has been since 2001, and he’s only six months older than Andrey Schevchenco. Of course, he won’t play every game, but whenever he does he will play like it is his last, and the goals and the craft will be vital to our assault on the stranglehold of Stamford Bridge.

True greats should never depart with a whisper, and the half time substitution against Sunderland was no way for a lion to exeunt, we all knew that. If ever a Liverpool player deserves a major trophy, it’s Robbie Fowler. The fingers of fate have conjured and conspired to return the player to Anfield, and, in his final act, let’s see them complete the spell and have Robbie Fowler lift the greatest prize of them all. A fitting climax to a career that truly has had it all.

Roll on Season 2006-2007.

© TheMightyRed 2006

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