Year Zero: The making of Robbie Fowler (Liverpool, 1994/95)
Beginnings and endings
Liverpool’s star eventually waned, though. As would be their association through most of the decade, they fell away towards the end of that season. Coventry and Leeds both won at Anfield in April and the Reds also lost comprehensively at Aston Villa and West Ham in May.
By that point, however, a pair of Fowler goals had taken Evans’s team to Wembley for the Coca-Cola Cup final, where a virtuoso McManaman performance against Bolton helped Liverpool to a 2-1 win. It was a first senior final for Fowler, and his first silverware as a professional.
The PFA Young Player of the Year award followed (the first of two in a row), presented to him by a beaming, almost paternal Ian Rush, and acted as apparent confirmation that he had entered permanent orbit. Fowler was a star of the game, one of the most watchable players in Europe. With 31 goals in all competitions, he also looked like the most natural finisher of his generation.
But if 1994/95 was the beginning, then the following season was really the beginning of the end. Another 28 Premier League goals later, Fowler was heading to Euro 96 with England and a step closer to football’s summit.
But he would never get any closer. Injury blunted his dynamism and an antagonistic relationship with Gerard Houllier eventually necessitated his sale to Leeds for £12m in 2001. There was a before and after, without question, and the years following – though still decorated with goals – only heightened the regret over what had been lost.
It is to his credit, though, that over two decades later Fowler is still inextricably bound to his best form, to Martin Tyler’s many inflections, and to one of the most incendiary beginnings to a career that English football has ever witnessed.
“One morning I came down to breakfast and my face was on the back of the cornflakes box," Fowler later remembered. "Weird.”
Like this? More Year Zero...
- David Beckham (Manchester United, 1996/1997)
- Dennis Bergkamp (Ajax, 1986/87)
- Ronaldinho (PSG, 2001/02)
- Ronaldo (Barcelona, 1996/97)
- Frank Lampard (Chelsea, 2004/05)
- Thierry Henry (Arsenal, 1999/2000)
- Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United, 2006/07)
- Zinedine Zidane (Juventus, 1996/97)
- Gareth Bale (Tottenham, 2010/11)
- Eric Cantona (Leeds/Manchester United, 1992/93)