Robert Bernard 'Robbie' Fowler, (born 9 April 1975 in Toxteth, Liverpool, Merseyside, England) is an English footballer who plays for Premier League side Blackburn Rovers. He is the fourth-highest goalscorer in the history of the Premier League.
Fowler scored 120 Premiership goals for Liverpool in an eight year period. He subsequently played for Leeds United and Manchester City, before returning to Liverpool in January 2006. He moved clubs again 18 months later to sign for Cardiff City. He refused a one year "pay as you play" contract extension and signed with Blackburn Rovers on a three-month "pay as you play" deal instead.
In 1986, an 11-year-old Fowler was selected for Liverpool Schoolboys and was spotted by Liverpool F.C. scout Jim Aspinall. He began training with Liverpool once a week and signed schoolboy forms with the club. On leaving school in 1991 he signed as a YTS trainee, and turned professional on his 17th birthday less than a year later.
Fowler's first involvement with the Liverpool first team came on 13 January 1993, when he was an unused substitute in an FA Cup third round tie against Bolton Wanderers. In the following close season, Fowler helped the England Under-18 team win the 1993 European Championship, before making a scoring first-team debut in Liverpool's 3–1 win in a first round Coca Cola Cup tie at Fulham on 22 September 1993. Fowler scored all five goals in the second leg at Anfield two weeks later, making him the fourth player in Liverpool's history to score five in a senior fixture. He scored his first league hat-trick against Southampton in only his fifth league game. His first 13 games for the club yielded 12 goals, and he was rewarded with an England Under-21 debut against San Marino in November 1993, in which he scored England's opening goal in the third minute. Fowler was unable to sustain his goal-a-game ratio throughout the season, but finished his first season as the club's leading scorer with 18 goals in all competitions. It was, however, a disappointing season for Liverpool, as they finished eighth in the Premier League without making any impact in any of the major competitions, though the departure of Graeme Souness as manager and the appointment of Roy Evans as successor built up hope for the future.
In the 1994–95 season, Fowler was an ever-present for Liverpool, playing in all of their 57 competitive matches, including the victory in the 1995 League Cup final, and a match against Arsenal in which he scored a hat-trick in four minutes and 33 seconds, a Premiership record. Fowler was voted the PFA Young Player of the Year in two consecutive years in 1995 and 1996, a feat equalled only by Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney.
Throughout the mid and late 1990s, Fowler was widely considered to be the most natural finisher playing in England. Fowler sealed this reputation as he scored more than 30 goals for three consecutive seasons, up to 1997. Stan Collymore, Fowler's strike partner from 1995 to 1997, said in his autobiography that Fowler was the best player he has ever played alongside. Fowler and Collymore were among the most prolific goal-scoring strike partnerships in England during the 1995–96 season. In the same season he scored twice in a 4–3 victory over Newcastle United, a match voted the best of the decade in a Premier League poll. The match helped prevent Newcastle from winning the league, but it was not enough for Liverpool to clinch the title; they finished third while Manchester United F.C. were crowned champions. Fowler also played in his first FA Cup final that season, but was on the losing side as Manchester United won 1–0.
Fowler received a call-up to the full England squad and won his first cap on 27 March 1996 as a substitute in a friendly against Bulgaria. His first start at international level was against Croatia which was the England game following his substitute appearance. Fowler was part of the England squad for Euro 96, making two appearances in the tournament. On 14 December 1996, he scored four against Middlesbrough, including his hundredth for Liverpool. This meant he reached a century of goals one game quicker than his first strike partner, Ian Rush.
That year, he also won a UEFA Fair Play award for admitting that he had not been fouled by, Arsenal goalkeeper, David Seaman at Highbury after a penalty had been given. After unsuccessfully trying to convince the referee to change his decision about the penalty Fowler took it tamely and Seaman saved. However, Seaman failed to hold on to the ball and Jason McAteer scored from the rebound. Many people wrongly believe that Fowler deliberately took the penalty kick poorly for reasons of fair play. However, he later stated that "I tried to score. I never missed on purpose. It just happened, it was a bad penalty.
Fowler was part of a group of Liverpool players from the mid-1990s who were nicknamed "The Spice Boys" by the press following a series of off-field controversies. The term was coined by the Daily Mail, and arose due to misplaced rumours that Fowler was dating Spice Girl Emma Bunton. The term was subsequently used in a derogatory manner, implying Fowler and colleagues such as Jamie Redknapp, Stan Collymore, David James and Steve McManaman were underachieving playboys.
Fowler's performance in the 1997–98 football season was marred by a knee ligament injury that kept him out of action for half the season and caused him to miss the 1998 World Cup. During this period of injury, fellow Liverpool striker, Michael Owen rose to prominence, making his debut in 1997. Owen established himself in the Liverpool team in Fowler's absence.
In 1999, Fowler was fined £60,000 by his club for bringing the game into disrepute. Whilst celebrating his goal against Liverpool's Merseyside rivals, Everton, Fowler used the white line of the penalty area to simulate cocaine use. Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier stated that this was a Cameroonian grass eating celebration, learnt from teammate Rigobert Song. Defending himself, Fowler later said this was a response to Everton fans who had insulted him with false accusations of drug abuse. Fowler received a four match suspension from the FA for this incident. At the same FA disciplinary hearing, Fowler received a further two match suspension due to a separate incident in which he had taunted the Chelsea defender Graeme Le Saux by waving his backside at him as Le Saux's wife and children watched from the stands. Fowler later attempted to justify his actions by suggesting his homophobic taunts were simply an extension of gamesmanship. The FA imposed a £32,000 fine and a six match ban for the two incidents.
He did take part in a fourth round League Cup hammering of Stoke City F.C, scoring a hat trick in an 8–0 victory which beat the club's record 7–0 defeat of Crewe Alexandra F.C. in 1896. In the League Cup final against Birmingham F.C., the club's first cup final since 1996, he captained the side and scored in 30th minute. Liverpool went on to win the trophy on penalties. Fowler picked up the Alan Hardaker Man of the Match award and lifted the trophy.
Fowler’s season picked up from there as he scored several important goals including a goal against runaway champions Manchester United and a free kick in the FA Cup semi-final against Wycombe Wanderers. Fowler featured as a substitute in the 2001 FA Cup Final coming on as a 77th minute replacement for Vladimír Šmicer. Liverpool, who were 1–0 down at that point, eventually won the game 2–1 with two goals from Michael Owen. Fowler raised the trophy along with Sami Hyypiä and Jamie Redknapp.
Four days later he was a substitute again in Liverpool’s third final, the 2001 UEFA Cup Final against Deportivo Alavés. He came on in the 64th minute for Emilie Heskey with the score at 3–3. He scored seven minutes later but Alavés equalised before full time and Liverpool eventually won with a golden goal, an own goal, in the 116th minute. Fowler and Hyypia then raised Liverpool’s third trophy of the season together. Liverpool’s next and final game of the season was against Charlton Athletic F.C. and Fowler scored twice in a 4–0 victory that assured them UEFA Champions League qualification for the next season.
The transfer went ahead just one month after his hat-trick at Leicester with a fee of £11 million. He made his Leeds debut in an away game against Fulham, the same ground where he had made his debut eight years earlier. Fowler scored 12 goals in the remainder of the season, helping Leeds to a UEFA Cup qualifying place. Fowler was included in the England squad for the 2002 World Cup, but only made one appearance, coming on as substitute in a second round win over Denmark.
Fowler suffered an aggravation of a pre-existing hip injury in the 2002–03 pre-season, and did not recover until December. Struggling to gain fitness, and seeing team-mates sold off due to a financial crisis, Fowler's form and market value diminished. However, in total he scored 15 goals in 31 appearances for Leeds; achieving an impressive strike rate of just less than one goal every two games. In 2002–03, Leeds finished 15th in the Premier League and a severe financial crisis was developing.
Fowler continued to struggle with fitness problems in the 2003–04 season, completing the full 90 minutes only nine times, however he did score against his old club Liverpool in a 2–2 draw at home. The arrival of, close friend, Steve McManaman from Real Madrid gave Fowler hope, but the pair failed to rekindle their prolific partnership of yesteryear, and received criticism from the fans and tabloids for their salaries and alleged excesses. In 2004 Fowler, depressed by his lack of form and fitness, considered retiring, but was persuaded to carry on by Keegan and Stuart Pearce. He then showed a marked improvement in the second half of the 2004–2005 season, scoring his 150th Premiership goal in the 3–2 win over Norwich City on 28 February 2005. However, his failure to convert a 90th minute penalty kick against Middlesbrough's Mark Schwarzer in the final game of the season prevented Manchester City from gaining a place in the UEFA Cup. Despite this, Fowler ended the season as the club's joint top goal scorer and gained the approval of the fans, finishing in the top three in the fans' Player of the Year poll. Fowler later described this as "one of the proudest achievements of my career".
Fowler had injury problems at the start of the 2005–06 season and rarely featured when fit, making just two substitute appearances in the first four months of the season. His first start of the season came against Scunthorpe United in the FA Cup on 7 January 2006, in which he scored a hat-trick. The following week he scored Manchester City's third goal in their 3–1 win against local rivals Manchester United after coming on as substitute. However, Fowler made only one more appearance for Manchester City before returning to Liverpool on a free transfer.
On 27 January 2006, Fowler rejoined Liverpool from Manchester City on a free transfer, signing a contract until the end of the season. Fowler had remained a Liverpool fan after he left the club; he was in the Istanbul crowd when Liverpool won the Champions League in 2005.
The fans were overjoyed to learn that Fowler had returned; there were large banners in the game against Birmingham City which read 'God - number eleven, welcome back to heaven', with 'God' being Fowler's nickname while he was previously at Liverpool.
Fowler's return against Birmingham City in February 2006 was labelled by the tabloid press as the stuff of fairytales, and he himself said he felt like "a kid waking up on Christmas morning every day". Fowler's first appearance back at Anfield was as a substitute against Birmingham, receiving a standing ovation upon his introduction. After his return, he had three goals ruled out for offside, before finally getting off the mark on 15 March 2006 in a home game against Fulham, the same opponents against which he scored his first ever goal for Liverpool 13 years earlier.
Fowler's next Liverpool goal, against West Bromwich Albion, meant he overtook Kenny Dalglish in the club's all time top scorers. His resurgence continued as he marked his 31st birthday with a goal against Bolton Wanderers. He made it four goals in five games when he scored the only goal in a 1–0 victory over Blackburn Rovers on 16 April 2006. However, Fowler's fitness remained a concern. In March 2006, manager Rafael Benítez commented on Fowler's work and progress by saying, "to buy a Robbie Fowler who is fit and scoring goals would cost a lot, maybe £10m or more". Despite concerns about his fitness, Fowler finished the 2005–06 season scoring on a more consistent basis than Liverpool's other strikers. In May 2006 he was offered a new one year contract with the club, and celebrated by scoring the first goal in Liverpool's last league game of the season in a 3–1 away win at Portsmouth. It was his final game of the season as he was unable to take part in the club's FA Cup Final success due to being cup-tied.
Fowler featured rarely in his final Liverpool season, making only six league starts. Bizarrely, all three of his League goals were penalties against Sheffield United. Appearances in other competitions were more common due to Rafael Benítez's squad rotation policy. On the 25 October 2006 Fowler was named as Liverpool's captain for the first time since his return in a League Cup tie against Reading, scoring just before half-time in a 4–3 win.
On 5 December, Fowler scored his first two goals in the UEFA Champions League competition proper against Galatasaray (he had previously scored during a qualifying tie some six years prior against FC Haka), though Liverpool lost 3–2.
On 1 May 2007 he was a substitute in the Champions League semi-final against Chelsea, brought on in the last few minutes of extra-time. He set up an attack for Dirk Kuyt but the shot went straight at the Chelsea goalkeeper. The match went into a penalty shoot-out that Liverpool won. Fowler was due to take the fifth and final spot-kick, but the game had already ended when Kuyt slotted home his winning penalty.
In what transpired to be his last appearance for the club, against Charlton Athletic on 13 May 2007, Fowler was given the captain's armband one final time. He was substituted two minutes from the final whistle and given a standing ovation. The crowd still chanted his name as the match finished and applauded him for his years of service. He finished his second run as a Liverpool player with a UEFA Champions League runners up medal, although he was not named in either the starting eleven or the seven substitutes. He became a free agent on 1 July 2007 having scored 183 goals in 369 appearances during his two spells at the club.
In November, Fowler travelled to Frankfurt, Germany to see Dr. Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfarth, a specialist sports injuries doctor, to try and resolve a recurring hip problem that had left him lacking fitness in early season fixtures for the Bluebirds. The treatment involved taking around twenty-eight injections into his hip. He returned to full training in late November and made his comeback on 15 December as a late substitute in a 1–0 defeat against Bristol City. However he went on to suffer another injury blow just days later after a mistimed tackle in training from club captain Darren Purse left him with damaged ankle ligaments. Due to the new injury blow Cardiff and Fowler made plans for him to go to Colorado, United States to undergo keyhole surgery on the hip problem, which had plagued him in recent seasons, in the hope that it would finally resolve the problem.
On 17 January, it was announced that Fowler could miss the rest of the 2007–08 season for Cardiff after his hip operation revealed that the injury was worse than previously thought. Surgeons were forced to perform a micro-fracture in order for the hip to heal properly. Despite this, he attempted to make a comeback at the end of the season to play in the FA Cup final against Portsmouth and was included in the 18-man match squad. However he did not feature in the game in anyway and thus did not receive a runners-up medal having not made an appearance in the competition.
Fowler concluded the trial period at Blackburn by agreeing to a three month pay-as-you-play deal. He stated that he was eager to return to the Premier League and that his pre-existing relationship with Ince would not earn him any preferential treatment. He made his first apperance against Everton in a 1-0 win in the Carling Cup on 24 September.
On 2 September 2005 he released Fowler: My Autobiography, about his time as a footballer and the issues surrounding him. Since his transfer to Liverpool he has updated it and included a section about his return to Anfield. Excerpts published in newspapers included criticism of the England management.
Robbie Fowler? I Can't Remember Him Putting One Past Me; PAUL ABBANDONATO Talks to Cardiff Defender Spencer Prior about Marking Leeds' Pounds 11m One-Man Strike Force
Jan 06, 2002; Byline: PAUL ABBANDONATO SPENCER PRIOR today takes on the toughest job in football. . . trying to stop the Robbie Fowler goal...
Football: McAteer: I Was Never a Spice Boy but Robbie Fowler Could Have Been. He Would Be Ugly Spice!; Now and Then
Nov 24, 2001; Byline: Simon BIRD JASON McAteer returns to Anfield tomorrow convinced the Spice Boys image helped end his Liverpool career. The...