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Joe Star said:
Well at least Cisse wont get offloaded now :D. Morientes & Crouch as our strikers.......i dont even wanna thinkA about it :(

He deserves a full season' s worth of games.

after all he's been through I REALLY hope Djibril has an excellent season this year and... outscoring michael owen is a MUST!!


The Kop Kid

Senior Squad
Well, the transfer window has closed and we've signed (drumroll) FOOKIN' NO-ONE!!!

After identifying the positions that needed to be filled months ago and after chasing half the centre backs and wingers on the planet we STILL have no cover at the back and no natural right sided player. Fan-fookin-tastic!
31 million euros from the Champions League win and we STILL can't afford Michael Owen. Super!

Take a bow Rick Parry. Negotiator extrodinaire! :f***:
The Kop Kid said:
Well, the transfer window has closed and we've signed (drumroll) FOOKIN' NO-ONE!!!

After identifying the positions that needed to be filled months ago and after chasing half the centre backs and wingers on the planet we STILL have no cover at the back and no natural right sided player. Fan-fookin-tastic!
31 million euros from the Champions League win and we STILL can't afford Michael Owen. Super!

Take a bow Rick Parry. Negotiator extrodinaire! :f***:

as much as i like that little freaking midget to be wearing our NO:10 shirt again but i'm totally with rafa and rick on this... i won't pay 16million pounds for a player that we sold a year ago for 8million pounds.... now the owen saga is done and dusted our freaking strikers must start scoring now or i'll ask Ewan to shot them personally...:p :ewan:

Kibe Kru

Starting XI
It's quite sad though... Stelios stayed at Bolton, Kuyt at Feyenoord, Mexes at Roma, Simao at Benfica... we "lost" Owen to Newcastle (but I agree with Amika... I don't think we should pay 16M for a player we sold for 8M)...
either we were asked too much money because of our CL trophy or we can't attract big name players... I hope it's the former...

The Kop Kid

Senior Squad
Kibe Kru said:
It's quite sad though...
either we were asked too much money because of our CL trophy or we can't attract big name players... I hope it's the former...

Oh we can attract big name players alright. We just can't afford them. The question though is why. Probably the money pit of an unnecessary new stadium


Starting XI
I dont mean to propogate random ass speculation from other corners of the web, but I heard that the Simao situation was a matter of a 15 million euro offer to Benfica, who wouldnt budge from 20. Then, supposedly a last ditch bid of 18 was lodged and it was turned down too. Anyone else hear something like that? If thats the case, then I have to ask what happened to all that talk of the CL victory getting Benitez a big war chest for this year.


Staff member
Super Moderator
TROD said:
Kewell is ****, i mean come on, the man tried to sue Lineker, anyone who's anyone knows the English still love Gary Lineker :kader: :kader:

ahh well then, if England love Gary then Gary can say whatever he wants, and no one can react to it??

The fact that Gary settled out of court is admitting some guilt...

Ok, yes Im biased because Im Australian, BUT Rafa is NOT...And he is a bloody good manager...Rafa has said it, and Harry has said it, Kewell played for most of last season injured, and the only reason he was playing, and not out resting and trying to get back to full fitness was that there was no one else left...We had Cisse out, didnt have Morientes for Champs League, Mellor was out and Pongolle was out...Rafa has admitted that he played Kewell when he wouldnt usually play someone at the same level of fitness...So give the guy a break, and wait til he gets back to full fitness...He hasnt been brilliant since he joined Liverpool, but he didnt cost THAT much for a player of his quality...I remember everyone saying it was the bargain buy of the year etc...Didnt turn out to be, because he played the first half of the season ok, then went downhill a long way, and his 2nd season was as I said plagued by fitness problems...

Wait before you make judgement is all Im saying...


Staff member
Super Moderator
I dont know why everyone is so worried about the players we have...People are saying we need a good Attacking Midfielder, I think Garcia is exactly that...

What we need is a good right winger...I dont think Garcia likes it there, and he plays better just behind a striker...Our problem is also what formation suits our site best...

If you play a 4-4-2, then youd have
GK: Reina
RB: Finnan
CB: Hyypia
CB: Carragher
LB: Riise/Traore/Warnock
RM: Garcia?
CM: Alonso
CM: Gerrard
LM: Riise/Kewell/Zenden (I still feel both a fit Kewell and Riise are better options at LM then Zenden)
ST: Morientes/Crouch
ST: Cisse

My issue with this is Garcia isnt natural at RM...

OR we could play a 4-3-3/4-5-1 like other leading sides
GK: Reina
RB: Finnan
CB: Hyypia
CB: Carragher
LB: Riise/Traore/Warnock
DM: Hamann/Alonso/Sissoko
CM: Gerrard
CM: Alonso/Garcia/Zenden
RF: Garcia/Cisse
LF: Kewell/Garcia
ST: Cisse/Morientes/Crouch

When I was thinking about this formation, I didnt think it suited us, but now Ive put it down, I think it would work...Id play Garcia at LF, Cisse at RF (where he could run at defenders and get more of a free reign) and Morientes as ST, as Chelsea do with Drogba...It helps to have a big man upfront in this formation, and two quick men as the wide forwards...

Then have Alonso and Gerrard as your two attacking mids, and Hamann or Sissoko as your holding midfielder.

If Harry comes back at 100% fitness and plays like we all know he can, then you could move him to LF, Garcia to CM, and Alonso to holder...

Joe Star

Starting XI
Alex said:
If Harry comes back at 100% fitness and plays like we all know he can,
I think he left his skills over at Leeds. Its the least he could do for them after screwing them out of all that cash.

Haukur Gudnason

::President Scouser::
Allright Darren la' :ewan:

Don't look back in anger

Robbie Fowler is the wealthiest sportsman in Britain, a property tycoon, racehorse owner and goalscoring phenomenon. So why do many people think he is a football failure? In a remarkably candid interview he talks exclusively to Sarah Edworthy about drug addiction, his astonishing early success, and why he should still be playing for Liverpool

Sunday September 4, 2005
The Observer

We are standing in a spacious kitchen painted a dusky pink colour that, were it a lipstick or nail varnish, would be called Plum Beautiful or Berry Sorbet. On the large pine dresser stand baby photographs, christening snaps and paint-your-own ceramic plates daubed with the sentiments 'I love you Daddy' and 'To the best Daddy in the world'. Children's reward charts are pinned to a wall and here, in this orderly world of Aga and shiny marble worktops, Robbie Fowler, with a toddler's pink hair clip in his hand, is showing me a recipe for a Bedazzled Fairy Mountain cake.
The Toxteth Terror, eh? Having met Robbie on several occasions through his great mate Steve McManaman, I've always found him reserved but friendly, generous and endearingly quick with deadpan one-liners. For the purposes of this meeting, however, I canvassed a number of people and found plenty who are more convinced by the caricature of a boozing, immature, overpaid footballer on the slide to oblivion. As Fowler told me when we met at his home in Caldy on the Wirral - where somewhere through the trees Rafael Benitez, Jerzy Dudek and Ian Rush are neighbours - it is an image that annoys him because it is profoundly untrue. 'I'm just not like that,' he says flatly. His Scouse accent is not of the pronounced sing-song variety.

Critics of Fowler, who was 30 in April, like to call to mind three images when they speak about him: the notorious line-sniffing goal celebration against Everton in April 1999; the moment when he taunted Graeme Le Saux during a game at Chelsea; and the odd worse-for-wear snatched nightclub photograph. Never mind Robbie's side of these stories (of which, more later) or the universal truth that one man's prank is another's vexation. Those images tick the boxes of three taboos for those with role-model status - drugs, sex and drink.

At the same time, Fowler is held in huge affection for being 'mischievous, but a good guy'; 'a true Liverpool kid'; and 'a record-breaking scorer of supernatural precision'. And he is lamented for being forced out of Liverpool, as some would have it, by former manager Gerard Houllier.

The official club website states simply: 'Robbie Fowler is a Liverpool legend and a Kop hero who will never be forgotten.' He was a sensation from the moment he scored on his debut, against Fulham, in the Coca Cola Cup on 22 September 1993. In the return game, at Anfield, he scored five. Less than a year later, against Arsenal on 28 August 1994, the 19-year-old scored what remains the fastest hat-trick in the Premiership (in four minutes, 32 seconds), already on his way to becoming the fastest Liverpool striker in history to 100 goals. On 1 November 1994, Liverpool drew up a contract that made him football's first teenage millionaire. He was 19 and would go on to score 171 goals in 330 games.

'Everyone was saying, "He's too young",' Graeme Souness, who gave Fowler his debut during his troubled time as Liverpool manager, told me when we spoke. 'But I would go and watch him in the reserves - it would be a misty November night, there would be a throng around the goal, the ball would end up in the back of the net and I would say, "That's Robbie who's got that", and it always was. He had a fantastic sixth sense of where to be, a unique eye for a goal. He could conjure them from nothing. I would put him right up there with Ian Rush as one of the greatest poachers.' To the Liverpool faithful he was known simply as 'God'.

Since our arrival at God's divine family home - 'Edwardian, would you call it, Robbie?' 'Lived-in, I'd say' - there's been a fluid conversation going on about the fairy mountain birthday cake between Robbie's wife, Kerrie; their three blonde daughters, Madison, six, Jaya, four, and Mackenzie, two; and Kerrie's mother, Maureen. The girls are on their way to Tesco to buy the ingredients for the cake and Robbie wants to clarify what the excitement is all about.

With the children gone and the photographer setting up, Robbie and I sit outside on a Cliveden-style stone terrace that runs the length of the house. At the far end, neat box hedges retain the formality of a house built in 1910 for a Merseyside ship-company owner. Close to the table where we sit, a pop-up pink Tinkerbell play tent marks the other end, which houses an indoor swimming-pool. In an inner courtyard, washing is neatly pegged out on the line. As we look out over the garden and landscaped playground area, the conversation ranges between trampoline safety (Robbie is a worrier), the usefulness of a heated pool as a means of exhausting young children and the importance of school for building social confidence. All three girls attend a local private school, where they mingle with, among others, Liverpool midfielder Didi Hamann's brood. Away from football, Robbie's idea of an ideal day is, he says, 'to play golf at St Andrews - I've always wanted to play there - come home and mess around with the girls, then go out for a meal with my wife. That would be perfect.'

In truth, Robbie hates going out. 'I get paranoid about people staring at me. Even now I don't deal with people looking at me. I can't do it sometimes. I can't go out. I don't know how to react when people stare. It's not like they're trying to work out if it is me - I've got one of those faces I think that people automatically know. When I was young, meself and Stevie Mac would walk through town. He'd put a cap on and no one would know him, and I'd try and put a cap on but it seemed to make people recognize me more. I couldn't even get away with wearing a cap! I've always liked a laugh but when I look at how I've been portrayed over the years, it's been exaggerated. An image has stuck for most of my career and it isn't flattering. I hate the idea that people are looking at me like I'm some sort of thick, ignorant scally, or thug, who doesn't care about anything.'

This week Robbie Fowler publishes a remarkably candid autobiography. Why? He doesn't need the money: he is, after all, the richest sportsman living in Britain, his estimated fortune of £28 million accumulated from football and his ownership of close to 100 properties. He has also pursued an interest in horse racing, forming the Macca & Growler Partnership with McManaman and owning a string of horses, of whom the best-known and last survivor is Seebald.

Fans delight in teasing him about his property portfolio, singing, to the tune of 'Yellow Submarine', 'We all live in a Robbie Fowler house'. 'They sing another great one, too, something about rent ... ' he laughs. 'The investment is something in the pipeline that I could manage when I retire, but for now I leave all that on the backburner. I've got a financial advisor who deals with it so I can concentrate on football.'

With his close friend David Maddock, he has written his life story animated with intimate, quirky stories as you would expect, but driven primarily by his concern at how he has been misrepresented and at the way certain untruths about him have become undisputed convictions that continue to torture his family. He has never spoken out, for instance, against what he describes as 'the vindictive whispering campaign' about an alleged drugs problem. 'That myth really, really irritates me,' he says firmly. 'If people only knew the reason why I grew up hating drugs so much, maybe they'd have been a little slower to throw this mud at me.' Later, he explains how two of his cousins died through drug abuse and that he had grown up knowing that 'drugs are nothing but evil'.

'What struck me most in working on the book,' he continues, 'was just how far I have come. I've come from living in our house in Toxteth to what I've got now. I've worked hard for it, and I'm proud of that.'

What he shares with most other top-flight English footballers - with, as he puts it, 'Rooney, Stevie Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Beckham, Scholes, Macca, Joe Cole, Rio Ferdinand' - is an inner-city council-estate childhood. 'Coming from such a background doesn't mean you're thick, or a thug, but it does mean you have a certain outlook on life to begin with.'

Emerging just a year after the Premiership was set up in 1992, when money from Sky was enriching the game, Fowler quickly became famous and wealthy but without the benefit of the media training and lifestyle guidance that many young players receive today. As he writes: 'I was a cheeky little lad who played football every night, pissed around with his mates, and overnight, literally overnight, came fame. Nothing had changed in my routine, except that when I went down the chippy and got me special fried rice, it would be wrapped in a newspaper that had my picture all over it. It's no wonder I struggled to come to terms with it all ... Every game I played, something seemed to happen that made me a little bit more famous, or a little more notorious. I never analysed it, never thought about where I was heading or how I should react. I just reacted how I always reacted, instinctively, cheekily, sometimes stupidly. And I had the time of my life.'

When you're a teenager from inner-city Liverpool, you don't have any training on how to deal with the sideshow that comes with success. 'I've made plenty of mistakes, I know I have, and during my time as a footballer things have changed so that the spotlight is now even more intense. You have to be even more of a role model, a sensible, mature, intelligent professional, even if you're a cheeky little lad who's come from an inner-city council estate and put football before his studies.'

But he always had respect for the game as drilled into him at Liverpool by youth coach Steve Heighway, assistant manager Ronnie Moran and fellow striker Ian Rush. He was taught how to play for the team and how always to pass to the man in the best position. 'It strikes me that these days, clubs don't even want players who can truly play any more; they just want athletes, quick guys who don't have a football brain, can just run and run; some of them, Jesus. I can never imagine acting like that. Have a laugh, yeah, dick about, but don't give it the Charlie Big Bollocks. It's inevitable now, because everyone is a superstar, even if they're just an average player, and maybe that was part of the process set in motion when I signed that contract in 1994.'

Robert Bernard Fowler was born in Liverpool on 9 April 1975, to parents whose families had both lived in Toxteth for generations. His dad was a labourer before he started to work on the railways. Robbie's paternal grandfather was a Liverpool fan who used to dance on the piano in the local pub to celebrate victory. His maternal grandfather, from whom he reckons he's inherited his prankster sense of humour, was a good Catholic, 'who would get a few drinks down him on 12 July when they had the Protestant marches, and he would then go out and lead the parade!'

Born with congenital dislocation of the hips, Robbie was a 'tiny, little kid' who suffered bad asthma, and was known until secondary school as Robert Ryder, his mum's family name before he registered with his father's. 'I had a new identity,' he says of changing his name. 'It was like being James Bond!'

He has a sister, Lisa, a year his senior, and two younger brothers, Anthony and Scott, but his parents never married, nor ever lived together for long under the same roof. 'We were never deprived, even if we weren't loaded,' he says of his childhood. 'If I'm honest, until I got married, I was always at me mum's, even when I had my own flat, and she carried on cooking and washing and ironing for me. And Dad was always there. I reckon he's watched every game I ever played from the age of about 10 and he always took me down to play football and practise, practise, practise. I used to go over the road to his place on Saturdays, watch Match of the Day then fall asleep, and then come back over the next morning.'

An Everton supporter who idolised Graeme Sharp, Fowler's world was contained within three points: home in the council maisonette, school at one end of the road, and the all-weather pitch at the other end. From as early as he can remember, his dad took him to kick balls. 'Wind or rain, snow or shine, we'd be there.'

At the age of six, in the summer of 1981, the Toxteth Riots broke out on his front doorstep. For nine nights 'gangs of lads would start to gather around the top of our road, more and more of them, until it all exploded into carnage'. Rioters charged and smashed windows in the maisonettes. Bottles flew, shops were looted, buildings burnt. Protected by his mother, young Robbie knew little of what was happening. 'I suppose it's funny that, had I been old enough, I could have put the telly on and seen all these pictures of civil war, then opened the curtains and watched it live.'

The charred remains of buildings formed the backdrop to his childhood world, but Fowler is proud to have come from his strong, close, family network in Toxteth. 'If there's one thing that does my head in, it's all the stuff banging on about Toxteth being this ****-hole, the inference being that it was miraculous I managed to claw my way out of there.'

As a teenager his world expanded slightly to encompass pool and footie as well as hanging out at 'the benches', or by a phone box where he and his mates would cold-call people and pretend they'd won prizes. He was a regular at Mick's Chippy for pitta bread and crisps. Even after he was a first-team regular at Liverpool, he was still going to Mick's Chippy for his favourite special fried rice with barbecue sauce. His football routine insulated him from the drugs and crime. 'I never got near the dodgy stuff,' he says. 'Maybe if I'd not been able to kick a ball it would have been different, but I doubt it because all my mates are decent blokes now, just normal fellas with families.'

He recalls the day he received a letter from the Liverpool Schools Football Association asking him to attend a trial at Penny Lane. Once there, he was embarrassed by his scabby pair of boots. It bothered his parents, too, and, though struggling to make ends meet each week, his father greeted him through the school railings one day dangling a new pair of top boots. As Fowler describes the thrills of his early progress, you have a sense of a young boy who inspires affection in his elders. Mr Lynch, for instance - as Robbie and his family still call him to this day - who directed his talent with Liverpool Schoolboys. With the celebrated Liverpool scout, Jim Aspinall, too, he formed a lasting bond. As Aspinall lay dying last year, at the age of 72, Fowler went to visit him in hospital. 'I arrived a few minutes too late so I never got to thank him for all he did for me and tell him how much he meant to me,' he says.

Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool manager from 1985 to 1991, was aware of Robbie's early promise and instructed Aspinall to 'get me that little Robbie Ryder at all costs'. Dalglish, who graduated from being the club's star striker, watched Fowler closely once he was attending the club's academy and made a point of happening to be around when Robbie and his father were invited to meet the players. On one occasion, Dalglish even gave them a lift to Toxteth in his large white Mercedes. Dalglish thought they had said Croxteth, which is on the way to where he lived in Southport, but happily switched direction. 'I took an eternity to get out of the car, with Kenny Dalglish hanging out the window saying goodbye,' he says. 'But you know what, not one of my mates walked by, and not one of the neighbours stuck their heads out their windows, even though they were all nosey buggers!'

To Fowler, signing a three-year YTS apprenticeship in 1991 was fulfilment of the ultimate dream. He would clean out the bath, clean the boots and the changing rooms, and hang out the kit. 'I never minded the ****ty jobs and I loved being around all the top men like Rushie and John Barnes and Macca.'

Then it was the reserves and the impatient wait for a first-team opportunity. That came soon enough when, at the age of 18, Graeme Souness gave him his debut, playing alongside Ian Rush. Naturally, he scored. 'He scored from day one,' recalls McManaman. 'He emerged with a bang, instantly a hero, instantly breaking records. I remember that time so well. We were both young, both Scousers playing for Liverpool. It was fantastic. He is the best finisher I ever saw.'

Back then, Fowler hadn't yet worked out how to celebrate - 'I sort of had this two-fisted thing, just looking around with a big stupid grin on me face' - but fans would pick him up in the street, put him on their shoulders and walk off singing his praises. He was on a rollercoaster and was soon being asked for his autograph by Nelson Mandela and Robbie Williams.

Was he successful too soon? Schooled in the old ways of football, he entered the game just as its entire culture was about to be radically changed.

'I was a boy, suddenly treated like the men and expected to act like them,' he says, reflecting on his glorious early years when he seemed destined for greatness, with both Liverpool and England. 'When I emerged Liverpool had a tradition of their players working hard and playing hard, back before the Nineties and through all the glory era. When I got there, all the pasta and science stuff hadn't quite caught on in England - things that were perfectly acceptable then wouldn't be tolerated now. We had some characters, too, some lively boys who could teach a wide-eyed little kid a thing or two. So I had an introduction to the old way of doing things, just as the whole mentality began to change in football.'

McManaman recalls a typical prank during Euro 96 in England. 'Bob Wilson and Carlos Charlton were broadcasting one night at 10.30pm from Burnham Beeches,' he says. 'All of the players could see it was going out live, so Gazza and Robbie sneaked out and danced around behind them in their dressing gowns. We were inside, in hysterics, watching it half on telly and half out of the window. It was harmless fun, but needless to say it was judged on.'

Haukur Gudnason

::President Scouser::
Fowler thinks his uncouth image arises from such harmless, early pranks. There is certainly a gulf between the spirit in which some controversial incidents came about and how they were received. The Le Saux confrontation, for example, Fowler explains away simply as a case of his retaliating verbally against a defender's repeated, discreet use of a flying elbow. He remembered how violently Le Saux had reacted when David Batty, his team-mate at Blackburn, had baselessly called him a 'poof', and so chose to pursue the same line. Le Saux responded thus: 'But I'm married!' To which Fowler replied: 'So was Elton John, mate.' Cue: another elbow from Le Saux; followed by Fowler's shorts-down gesture.

On another, more benign, occasion Fowler pulled up his shirt after scoring against Brann Bergen, in a European game in March 1997, to reveal a mock Calvin Klein T-shirt in support of striking Liverpool dockers. McManaman was wearing one, too, and they had agreed between them to swap shirts with the opposition at the end of the game to register their support for the dockers, but subtly. Uefa fined Fowler £900. Two days earlier Fowler had received a personal fax from Sepp Blatter in which Fifa's president praised the way he had tried to encourage the referee to reverse a decision awarding him a penalty in a game against Arsenal at Highbury, when, he told the referee in vain, he had not been fouled by opposing goalkeeper David Seaman.

Fowler says that he has been tested for drugs use every year since he came into the game and has nothing to hide. 'Let me say now, once and for all, that the stories are not true. Not now, not then, not ever. It is an insult to me, and an insult to me mum and dad.' What he reveals in his book, in an understated way and out of respect for an aunt, is that both his cousin Vincent, with whom he used to play football, and Vincent's sister Tracy are both dead because of drugs. 'I'll never forget him [Vincent] and even now, every day, it breaks my heart and that of everyone in our family to think what happened. His mum, me Auntie Pat, obviously finds it so hard even now when I talk about it, and I don't want to make it any worse for her. But she also lost her daughter Tracy, who got involved with a bloke who was on drugs, and he killed her. If people could see what a devastating effect it has all had on her [Auntie Pat], how she has to live with it every day of her life, then I don't think they would be making jokes about drugs, and about me taking them.'

Fowler's father, Bobby, is sure that the rumours about his son were started by Everton fans. When 'smackhead' was daubed, in 10-foot letters, over his mother's house, Robbie felt his family had endured enough. Which leads us to the notorious goal celebration in front of away fans when he scored in a derby at Anfield - 'not the smartest move', he concedes.

'I realise I shouldn't have been so obvious in taunting the Everton fans, but I couldn't believe how much stick I got over the next few weeks. The message I was sending out there, which was completely clear in my mind, was that if I was supposed to be a smackhead, how the **** could I score goals against Everton and rub their faces in the dirt? How could I be a top sportsman and do everything I have if I was taking all that ****? It was a way of telling them that if they carried on with all that abuse, then I was going to stuff it up them even more. It was an attempt to get them to think about what they were doing, and even make them stop. And it was supposed to be funny.'

McManaman says that the drug taunts are as insidious as racism. 'Everton fans have always been terrible to Robbie because he's scored important goals against them. Maybe they think, because he's a Scouser, one of their own, they can get away with it, but the vitriol really stepped over the line. No player minds being called **** or fat, or taking a tremendous amount of stick, but to make up a culture of falsehoods, as they did with Robbie and drugs, was shocking. It really got out of hand. In that situation, it is a big ask of a player to remember to put your role-model status first before defending yourself when your family are subjected to horrible things as well. It is too easy for fans to say, "I pay over £20 for my ticket, I pay your wages, therefore I can do and say appalling things whenever I want". There is a line that should not be crossed.'

'When you come from Toxteth,' Fowler has said, 'you don't start moaning about "the price of fame", but what about my family? My wife Kerrie is the nicest person on earth and together we have brought our three girls up properly, to respect people and have decent values. How does Kerrie feel when she hears the rumours that, let's face it, reflect equally on her? What will my three children feel when they get to understand what "smackhead" means and that their dad has been called it all his professional life?

'Look, I'm no ******* saint, I've pulled plenty of stunts in my time, and I've not always behaved in the right way. But just because I'm from Toxteth doesn't mean I have to be a druggie. In my mind, that's what it boils down to. You're from a certain place that has problems with drugs in certain small areas, so you have to behave in a certain way. Never mind that the majority of families in Toxteth are decent, hard-working people, who have the same sort of values as everyone else. And never mind that your mum and dad, the people who pride themselves on bringing you up right, get a kick in the teeth every time some smart-arse has a cheap dig at your expense.'

On May 25 this year, Robbie Fowler travelled to Istanbul to watch the European Cup final. 'I was like every other Liverpool fan that night. I was over me head,' he tells me. 'What made it sweeter was that ever since the Olympiakos game no one gave them a chance, first to beat them by two goals, to play Chelsea, to play Juventus, even AC Milan; no one was giving them a chance. It fired them all up.'

In the celebrations afterwards the players he had once captained expressed regret that he had not been there on the pitch with them and blamed Houllier for forcing him out of the club. 'Obviously, deep down, I was thinking maybe it could have been me lifting the trophy, I could have been there on the pitch, but I never moped about it,' he says. 'I don't want to say in an ideal world - because that would be disrespectful to Leeds and Manchester City - but I do wonder what might have happened [if he had stayed at Liverpool]. If things had been going according to my plan, I would still be there.'

In five seasons under Graeme Souness and Roy Evans, Fowler won only one trophy, the 1995 League Cup. In his third and final full season with Houllier he won the treble of League Cup, FA Cup and Uefa Cup. It was, he says, 'the greatest season of my career, and also one of the worst'. Fowler's version of what he regards as Houllier's desire to force him out is shocking, as it was at the time to those in the know. During the painful period before his inevitable departure from Anfield, he received calls of support from Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush and John Aldridge.

'I've always thought it was wrong for players to leave clubs and have a go at managers or personnel who were at the club. You should just leave, and leave on good terms. It is clear that meself and Gerard never got on, but I don't think I've mullered him in the book. I've just been honest about the way he treated me and I treated him.'

Fowler writes bluntly: 'He [Houllier] lied to me', in a reference to a private promise to make him central to plans at Liverpool. Emile Heskey and Michael Owen started more games than Fowler, who was not played regularly enough to hit his rhythm. He endured regular dressing-downs in front of embarrassed team-mates. Fowler writes that Houllier used the influential Liverpool Echo to make fans question his form and attitude, briefing a young, raw reporter, Chris Bascombe, against him, even telephoning the writer to berate him if he had praised Fowler in a game. (Bascombe later explained in detail Houllier's tactics, having wised up when pressured to do the same with Owen.)

The manager argued that Fowler and Owen could not play together - but they emphatically disproved the theory, for England in Greece in June 2001. Robbie was named man of the match. But Houllier, 'the man who claimed he never missed a football match in Europe' according to Robbie, astonishingly just 'said he hadn't seen it' when asked by the local press.

He is more forgiving of former assistant manager Phil Thompson, with whom he often clashed. 'I've met him a few times since we've both been away from Liverpool and he's a totally different person. I couldn't believe it. At Liverpool he was a bit in yer face, if you like. But since he got released he's a totally different person, someone I didn't mind. With him and Gerard, it was a bit Jekyll and Hyde....................

The sense of injustice may be powerful, but he says he would swap only one thing in his entire time at Liverpool: the last game he played, against Sunderland at home, on 25 November 2001, when he was substituted at half-time to strengthen the midfield. 'That kind of sums up my time under Houllier,' is his verdict.

What of the notion that he has squandered his talent, that he should still be playing for England, for whom he last appeared in the 2002 World Cup? 'I'm still working hard,' he says. He concedes that he is more insecure than many would imagine an international to be. 'I sometimes think I've needed a bit of an arm around me in my career - which I've not always got from certain managers and coaches who didn't understand me.'

Stuart Pearce, who succeeded Kevin Keegan as manager of Manchester City in March, has encouraged Fowler with a more paternal approach. After describing himself as 'a cabbage' during his first two seasons at City, Fowler lists coming in the top three of the supporters' player-of-the-season awards last season as one of his proudest achievements (defender Richard Dunne came first).

Meeting him at home, it is clear he has attempted to remain true to himself and his Toxteth background throughout his thrilling and often troubled career. 'When you come from a council estate in Liverpool, how you come across is important,' he says, speaking for himself but also McManaman. 'You don't want to be seen as a biff: some busy bollocks like Gary Neville, or someone who has sold their soul like Beckham. The mates we've got, if either of us gives it the big bollocks, then they'd destroy us. Steve's like me, he's got mates from when he was a kid who knew him when he was two-foot nothing and had holes in his kecks. He'd be mortified if they thought he was getting above himself, or playing the big star, and I feel exactly the same way. Sometimes, I think that's why we both come across as if we don't give a ****, and I think that's why a few managers - England managers in particular - haven't understood the pair of us.'

As I prepare to leave, Fowler beckons me over to his mother-in-law's car. A small dog is hurling itself at the window, doing a good impression of an enraged guard-dog. 'Watch this,' says Robbie, with a grin. He opens the door boldly and the dog, relaxing, slinks over to the other side of the car. All it craves is a bit of reassurance. What is it they say about first impressions?

· Fowler: My Autobiography


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Not posted on here in a while. It is disappointing we never signed anyone else before the deadline but I don’t think Rafa should be blamed. Seems like clubs were asking for too much money for certain players. I don’t think Rafa should start spending over the odds for certain players.

I more disappointed with the whole Cisse saga. I feel Rafa got this totally wrong and I am glad Cisse was not sold to make way for Owen.

Hopefully Cisse is gonna get a run in the team upfront. Mori needs to be dropped, I love the guy but he not performing. Doesnt look like he is a threat when he plays.

oh and i got the Fowler book. GH and PT should be ashamed of themselves. what they done to Robbie is a disgrace.