Robbie Fowler established himself as one of the most lethal goalscorers in Premier League history at Liverpool, but you probably didn’t know his goals can also be used to cure illness.
Whether it’s a hangover or plain ol’ man-flu, there is something cathartic about watching goal compilations while wrapped up in bed, needing something, anything, to idly occupy your brain while you stare into oblivion.
Without having to think too much, there is a comforting familiarity to the buzz of seeing a ball hit the back of the net, a Nicotine rush of watching a goalkeeper dive in vain.
For this purpose, there are none better than the highlight reel of one Robert Bernard Fowler.
Simplicity is the key with Fowler. There are plenty of wondergoals, but not too many to leave you overstimulated and out of touch with the reality of both football and human life. There is no quest to score the perfect goal, but he still manages to come close on a couple of occasions.
Instead, there is just a ravenous hunger to score, and then score again, and then keep scoring until his body gives up on him; no matter how scruffy, no matter how beautiful, no matter the standard of the opposition.
It’s there from his very first goal for Liverpool, against Fulham, when he manages to connect perfectly with a cross as the ball rockets into the back of the net. As a teenager he was already making opposition goalkeepers slump to the ground and question their life choices.
It’s there two weeks later, when Fulham visit Anfield for the second leg of the League Cup tie and Fowler slaughters them by scoring five – five! – times.
For his second, Liverpool are already engineering indirect free-kick routines to get the ball at the feet of the best finisher at the club. Fowler is 18.
It’s there as Fowler, facing the meanest defence in the country in Arsenal, hustles his way to what was then the fastest hat-trick in Premier League history.
The previous season Tony Adams and co had conceded an outrageously stingy 28 goals in 42 matches. In four minutes and 33 seconds, they had conceded three to a 19-year-old Fowler.
The tragedy of Fowler’s career is that as quickly as he became God at Anfield, he just as swiftly faded away.
One serious knee injury in particular, suffered when he was still just 22, changed the course of his career – “I could have gone on to become the best in the world,” he said in 2017 – and his enforced absence coincided with the emergence of new Merseyside heroes in Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher.
Ironically, Owen’s career path would go on to mirror Fowler’s: an exhilarating goalscorer who is unfairly remembered due to a number of unfortunate injuries and questionable transfers.
But that’s why it is all the more absorbing to indulge in the dopamine hit of a Fowler YouTube rabbit hole. At times it feels like you are watching some lost footage of the greatest striker that never was.
The variety is frightening. The youthful exuberance as he continues to torment Everton, the team he grew up supporting, is thrilling. The audacity as he terrorises Gary Neville before chipping a hapless Peter Schmeichel at Old Trafford is nothing short of hilarious.
And that’s all only part one.
It’s easy to get distracted by everything around football these days: the transfer rumours, the clickbait, the twisted interviews, the stats, the tactics, the politics, the controversies.
Sometimes you just need to block out all the noise and remember what made you love it in the first place: goals.
Few players embody that childlike love for goals quite as much as Robbie Fowler.
So go on, treat yourself.
By Rob Conlon
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