By Stephen Taylor / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
Fowler: My AutobiographyBy Robbie Fowler with David Maddock
Pan paperback, 392 pp, 6.99 pounds
When Liverpool and West Ham United walk out at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium for the English F.A. Cup soccer final on May 13, at least one member of the Reds' squad will be itching to get a chance to add to his medal tally: Liverpool native son Robbie Fowler, alias "God."
His nickname may be a little over the top (not to mention blasphemous) but the Liverpool star is certainly a popular player among many in his hometown, despite having originally been a fan of crosstown rival Everton.
His memoir Fowler, written with journalist David Maddock, begins with his roots in Toxteth, an area of the city associated with a series of riots in 1981. It moves on to his English Premier League debut at age 18 for Liverpool against Chelsea in 1993--just a year after the league was established--and takes the reader through the important chapters in his life almost up to this week's game.
Along the way, he takes potshots at a number of names in the game who weren't quite godlike in his eyes, none more so than Gerard Houllier, Liverpool manager from 1998 to 2004.
In the most revealingly candid section of the book, Houllier is portrayed as a spineless, inflexible, authoritarian figure who was instrumental in Fowler's transfer to Leeds United.
In spite of the side's success in 2001, when they won the UEFA Cup, F.A. Cup and League Cup, the French manager struggled to endear himself to the Anfield faithful. Fowler's thoughts on the manager will be shared by many disgruntled supporters.
It has to be said that few Liverpool fans mourned the Frenchman's departure from the club, yet Olympique Lyon's French Ligue 1 title success this season under Houllier's leadership suggests that his methods do get results.
Elsewhere, there are jibes at Manchester United's Gary Neville, though this doesn't come as a surprise from a player whose clubs include Liverpool, Leeds United and Manchester City, while his description of ex-England manager Glenn Hoddle as a "control freak" might explain why he only got to represent his country 26 times, a low figure for a player of Fowler's stature.
On a positive note, his description of the team spirit that ran through England's 1996 European Championship squad under Terry Venables shows how popular a manager can be with players.
However, the accounts of the author's behavior with a certain Paul Gascoigne during the team's pre-tournament trip to Hong Kong suggests that claims about his raucous private life had some substance.
Even though there are plenty of drink-related tales here, he plays down the "Spice Boys" tag given to Liverpool players such as Steve MacManaman, John Scales, Jason McAteer, Jamie Redknapp and himself, who were allegedly targeted by Houllier for their champagne lifestyle and celebrity girlfriends.
Fowler vehemently refutes the rumors of drug abuse that have dogged most of his career, particularly on Merseyside, following a notorious goal celebration against Everton in 1994, when he got on his hands and knees and "snorted" the white goal line as a retort to the taunts of rival fans.
Fowler devotes a chapter to the subject and denies any drug-taking, citing two drug-related deaths in his family as reasons.
The book's tabloid style works well, and Maddock succeeds in conveying Fowler's vernacular.
Thankfully, he doesn't attempt to transcribe Fowler's Liverpool accent, but does insist on using the word "me" instead of "my" which, as accurate as it may be, gets a little irritating after a while.
Fowler says that his is a story about "a kid from Toxteth who wanted to play football, and got a whole lot more than he ever, ever imagined could be possible when his dream came true."
The final chapter sees Fowler back with Liverpool, hoping for an extension to his contract. (In fact, the club announced Friday that he is to begin a new one-year contract this week.) Perhaps next Saturday will be the beginning of a new chapter for the "God" of Anfield.