Robbie Fowler (better known as Robert Bernard Fowler to his parents) was one of the most natural finishers ever to grace the Premier League era in English Football. An impressive 6th place on the all-time Premier League goal-scorers list, with 163 Premier League goals, Fowler had predatory instincts that are seen in the game no more than once or twice in a generation.
Fowler is predominantly remembered for him time at his boyhood club, Liverpool. Robbie joined the club at a 17 year old schoolboy and soon after making a goalscoring debut (of course!) for the first team in a League Cup match against Fulham.
Whilst scoring on your first team debut is memorable, what Fowler did in the second leg of the League Cup match against Fulham (just two weeks later) may live even longer in the memory. Despite his tender years, Fowler notched all 5 goals that Liverpool scored in the second leg, at Anfield, no less. The goalscoring feat immediately etched Fowler in Liverpool folklore as he became just the fourth Liverpool player to ever score 5 goals in a single match.
Penchant for a hat-trick
How do you follow that? Surely you can’t, you say? Well, Robbie Fowler was no ordinary striker. He simply notched his first Premier League hat-trick in just his 5th League game for the club.
Hat-tricks seemed to be a key part of Fowler’s repertoire. In August 1994 Fowler would score the fastest hat-trick ever seen in the Premier League at that time, scoring 3 goals in just 4 minutes and 33 seconds against a shell shocked Arsenal side. There seemed to be no stopping the kid.
In his stride
And there really wasn’t, as far as opposing defenders were concerned, at least. His debut league season saw him hit 12 in 28 Premier League games and the next three seasons continued to see him rise through the ranks meteorically – 25 games in 42 games (94/95), 28 goals in 38 games (95/96) and 18 goals in 32 games (96/97).
During this period Fowler was part of a somewhat infamous group labeled the ‘Spice Boys’ which included the likes of Liverpool team mates Jamie Redknapp and Steve McManaman. The lads definitely lived up to their nickname when they arrived at the 1996 FA Cup Final. There was no fairytale ending however, as Liverpool were beaten by their arch enemy, Manchester United, 1-0, at Wembley.
Whilst Fowler’s goals were not enough to end Liverpool’s long wait to become League Champions of England’s top division, they were instrumental in a number of Cup Campaigns, such as the League Cup Liverpool lifted in 1994-95.
Fowler was also still at the club, scoring goals, when Liverpool secured an unprecedented cup treble, as they lifted the League Cup, FA Cup and the UEFA Cup (now known as the Europa League) in the 2000-2001 season. Fowler scored 17 vital goals that season despite being third choice behind Michael Owen and Emile Heskey, in the pecking order. Despite his status as third choice striker, he captained the side and scored in the League Cup Final, made a substitute appearance in the FA Cup Final and made a vital goals-coring substitute appearance in the UEFA Cup Final victory over Alaves.
It was in the following season that Fowler finally left Liverpool. A protracted, acrimonious relationship with then manager, Gerard Houlier, coupled with dissatisfaction at not being an automatic starter, saw Fowler sold to Leeds for £12 million.
Joining mid-season Fowler would make an immediate impact, with 12 goals in his 22 games for the club proving vital in Leeds securing a European place.
The following season injuries and disaster struck for Fowler and Leeds; Robbie himself was restricted to just 8 appearances in the league (2 goals) but Leeds found themselves in a crippling financial position and players of value simply had to be sold – Fowler was one of many to move on.
3 years at Manchester City followed, with Fowler snapped up by then City boss Kevin Keegan, a Liverpool hero himself. Injuries restricted his initial impact (just 13 league appearances and 2 goals), though he did start more regularly in the following two seasons with 7 goals in 31 games (03/04) and 10 in 31 games (04/05).
Mid-way into the 2005/06 season Fowler would return to his spiritual home, Liverpool. It was an emotional and joyful experience for Fowler and whilst not the force he once was, he still managed 12 goals in all competitions, spanning 40 games.
Those would be his final Premier League goals; a spell at Championship side Cardiff followed 4 goals in 13 before a short, goalless, 3 game period at Blackburn Rovers would follow.
That would signal the end of his career as far as English football was concerned but no football completely. 2 seasons in Australia followed and a final spell in Thailand (where he also managed), followed. The goals, of course, continued to flow.
26 caps and 7 goals was the return for Fowler at International Level for England…..unable to ever get consistent starts or regular strike partners, all across a number of managers, momentum was impossible to find, yet Fowlers nose for goal ensured he still left his mark on the world scene.