Part Four: Robbie and Michael.
By Anthony Stanley (TTT Subscriber BehindRafa).
‘Robbie Fowler? He could have been the brother of any Liverpool fan.’ – Eric Meijer.
‘The ‘problem’ for (Michael) was he became an England legend before a Liverpool one. He won the hearts of the nation before he won those of the Kop.’ – Jamie Carragher.
Two brilliant young strikers inherited by respective Liverpool managers from the youth system; two potentially world class forwards whose Liverpool career (in actual playing time) only briefly overlapped; one utterly embraced by the Kop but his best days were behind him by the age of twenty three, the other, while being admired, always viewed through a slight prism of suspicion and had won the European Player of the Year by the time he was twenty three.
Liverpool supporters are walking exponents of the Chinese curse about living in interesting times, and in the case of Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen we lived through a time that was – for all the shifting sands of change and turmoil – a great time to be a Red, even if it held more than a degree of pain.
There are only two years between the two players but their career trajectory was always going to be radically different. Fowler was viewed by the Kop as one of our own, warts and all, a character carved from the streets of Toxteth, a working class scally who looked slightly bewildered at all the fuss. Owen was a different animal altogether, hailing from a comfortable middle class background, groomed for stardom from a young age. The clean cut and handsome youngster was a marketing man’s dream. It would not be exaggerating to claim that if a hypothetical Frankenstein sought to conjure the perfect modern footballer in a laboratory, then the chiselled and athletic visage of Owen would be the result. Robbie was different; Fowler was always different – less a modern Prometheus and more a Jabberwocky of outrageous goal scoring talent. And we absolutely adored him for it.
There was always the nagging feeling that we didn’t actually own Owen. Was he more England’s than Liverpool’s? Was he finally going to make the long mooted move to one of Europe’s giants? Everything about the young star smacked of transience in a red shirt. Given his exploits for Liverpool, there is no doubt that his subsequent tarnished reputation is slightly unfair but, well, the heart loves what the heart loves.
Fowler was the urchin, a Freudian projection onto a football pitch of all of our desires, our dreams of scoring in front of a heaving Kop made incarnate, a flawed but ultimately colourful and three dimensional character.
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