Liverpool icon Robbie Fowler looks back at his Anfield career and the present-day problems the club he loves finds itself in.
Goals have been hard to come by for Liverpool of late with Daniel Sturridge wracked with injury and Christian Benteke struggling for confidence.
For one man, though, scoring in the red of Liverpool was never a problem and manager Jurgen Klopp would certainly be wishing he had a peak Robbie Fowler at his disposal.
The Reds legend was one of the most natural finishers to have graced the Premier League, scoring 183 goals in 369 appearances across two stints at Anfield, culminating in a treble trophy haul in 2001.
And Fowler was in town for a 5Times golf day event at Emirates Golf Club to discuss Klopp’s indifferent start to life in England, the problem surrounding the club’s current crop of strikers and some of the highlights from his career.
You’re here in Dubai to play golf, do you get manage to get out and play much?
I don’t play enough or as much as I would like to. That happens when you’ve got four kids.
But I love the game and I do get out when I can. It’s great to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. You give yourself four or maybe five hours of total concentration. That’s what I love about it.
Your former club Liverpool, what have you made of Jurgen Klopp’s start to management there?
We’re very inconsistent at the moment and I think he will be the first to admit that. But I think he’s an exceptional manager and his stats at Borussia Dortmund back that up. When Liverpool were looking for a new manager he could have had the pick of any club in the world, he is that good, so thankfully he is at us.
The Premier League is much tougher than the Bundesliga and I don’t mean that to slate German football but it is much more competitive in England. He’s still finding his feet but the longer he is there the more chance he will have to put his stamp on the team.
Do you think much has actually changed since Brendan Rodgers was sacked?
He’s got them working harder and there seems to be much more energy. What we have is a manager who is very passionate on the touchline and when you have that it drives the players on and you can see that in their game. That’s what he’s brought more than anything. Statistically and tactically not much is drastically different apart from pressing higher up.
One of the problems is a lack of goals, what is your assessment of the situation in regards to strikers?
We’ve struggled for goals this season and everyone knows that. I like Christian Benteke but I think he’s struggling for confidence massively. I think when you come to a club like Liverpool the pressure is much bigger than anywhere else and he’s just coming to learn that now. At times he can be unstoppable but he relies so much on his confidence and when he is, he’s one of the best strikers in the league. I don’t really see this argument that the club needs to change the way it plays to suit him because if you’re top striker, you adapt and it’s naive of people to say that things should change for him.
There are suggestions Daniel Sturridge is unhappy at the club and sections of supporters would be happy to see him leave. Should the club sell him?
I understand where fans are coming from when they say we may be better off getting him off the wage bill but Liverpool is all about trying to get a real decent squad and competition for places so we need to keep him. It’s not ideal because he’s not playing but I’ve been in the same situation before when I’ve been injured lots of times and I know how he feels, it’s a nightmare. I don’t think he wants to be injured, he wants to play and certainly I wouldn’t get rid of him, I don’t think Liverpool can afford to. I think it’s important we have someone else there to take the goalscoring burden off him and at the moment there isn’t.
Is there a player in the current Liverpool squad you like?
Philippe Coutinho. I know he’s been injured the last few weeks but he is a really talented player. I would have loved to play alongside him because as a striker, you make any run and he’ll find you.
In terms of your own career, what is a highlight that stands out for you?
Funny enough actually, my career highlight wouldn’t be scoring any goals or winning trophies. I left Liverpool in 2002 but got a chance to re-sign in 2006 and that is certainly the best thing that happened to me. I think took things a little bit for granted at Liverpool because I didn’t really know anything different. I did want to leave Liverpool but only because I wasn’t playing. I know people tend to make a big thing about myself and Gerard Houllier falling out…but I fell out with every manager! But when you’re away from the club you realise how big and how special the place is. Getting that chance to re-sign was by far the best thing that happened to me in football.
During your time at the club, who was the biggest character in the dressing room?
We had a great dressing room. We had players like Jason McAteer, David James and Steve McManaman who were all great lads and very boisterous. Not a rowdy dressing room, but we were vocal. It wasn’t really a case of having one individual, we had a team full of talkers and leaders. We had so many and you could see that on the pitch which makes the football that little bit better.
Who was the best player you played alongside?
The best, well, there’s two that stand out. Obviously Steven Gerrard is the first. He was exceptional. You ask any ex-Liverpool player who played alongside him he will certainly be right up there for them, too. But the other is Steve McManaman and I think he deserves a lot more credit than what people give him. He went to Real Madrid, won league titles and the Champions League, in my eyes he’s the most successful Brit to play abroad and doesn’t get that accolade. I would maybe have him ahead of Steven because we had such a good understanding on the pitch.
Out of the many, do you have a favourite goal?
Look, I’m goalscorer, so I loved all goals whether it was a six-yard tap in or a 25-yard whack. I loved scoring from six-yards as it meant I was doing my job but there is one that stands out. Probably the best goal I scored was the 2001 season when we won the treble (UEFA Cup, League Cup and FA Cup). We beat Charlton 4-0 at the end of the season. We were struggling 0-0 at half-time we needed to win to get into the Champions League. I scored an overhead kick, I’m not even sure you would call it that, but that was probably my best.