Fowler wants one more chance
Robbie Fowler is looking for a club, and fast. He is 37 in a few weeks, and last month turned down a move to English Championship side Blackpool after it offered him a basic weekly salary of £90 ($142), with a £5,000 ($7935) match bonus on completing 90 minutes.
It was initially tempting until he spoke to coach Ian Holloway. "He told me he wanted me as an impact substitute, and because he wanted my experience to help the squad, and to just have me around the place," Fowler tells SI.com. "So that was not great but I don't want to get into a slanging-match with them."
Instead, he is casting his net far and wide to eke out the twilight of his career. This week he should be preparing to play opposite the likes of Hernan Crepso and Fabio Cannavaro in India's inaugural Premier League Soccer campaign, where Kolkata signed him for $530,000 to play under coach Peter Reid. "That's been indefinitely postponed but they keep telling me it's not canceled, so fingers crossed it will still happen," he says of the soccer equivalent of Indian Premier League cricket.
After spending two years playing in Australia and six months in Thailand, he is open to offers from anywhere, though admits his chance of playing MLS has come and gone. "A few years ago I had serious contact with Stevie Nicol at New England Revolution, and also Columbus Crew. I know that the league has progressed a lot and there are some talented players there now. Maybe I should have gone there ..."
In his day, Fowler was a superb instinctive striker: between 1994 and 1996, he scored 30 goals for three seasons running and is fourth on the list of all-time Premier League goal scorers. But in eight seasons at Leeds, Manchester City, Liverpool (again) and Cardiff City, he never scored more than 12 goals, a total he topped in his first six seasons as a professional.
Injuries played a huge part, and might not be helping his current search. He has had two hip operations, snapped his cruciate ligament, broken his leg and had two ankle operations. But like so many before him, he is finding it hard to stop playing for good. "I miss playing right now, of course I do," he admits. "I've played for a long time, ever since I was 11, so to stop would be a nightmare.
"I played for a long time, and probably one regret would be that I should have enjoyed it a bit more. It doesn't last forever and for me it seems like yesterday that I was only just starting out, it's gone so quickly. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it or embrace it -- I did -- but I might have made more of it. I want to play until physically I can't walk anymore..."
Fowler remains a huge Liverpool fan and you can hear the frustration in his voice when he talks about his team's current situation, and particularly its misfortunes in front of goal, where it chance-conversion ratio is among the lowest in the division.
"Liverpool have dominated teams this season yet failed to win games, and I don't know how to explain Luis Suarez's goal record [six goals in 21 games] this season," Fowler says. "He's been great for Liverpool but he has struggled to score. Maybe he needs someone alongside him, a great goal scorer who can put away chances he can supply, because he's a fantastic all-around player."
So not Andy Carroll then? "If I'm being blunt, Carroll has struggled, and maybe he's not used to what Liverpool is all about: it's a massive club worldwide, and there was pressure on him after the club spent £35 million ($55M). Perhaps that has forced him to play not as well as he could. I really hope he comes good."
Liverpool fans would love Fowler to come back to the club in a coaching capacity, and help its strikers improve their figures. It was reported that he did help out at Melwood, Liverpool's training-ground, last season, but Fowler has never worked with the first team, though you sense he would love the opportunity. "I'm finishing my coaching badges now and I sometimes go to Liverpool academy and do some coaching. I do really enjoy that part of football, admittedly I want to play but I know I can't do it forever so the next step is coaching and managing."
He had a taste of that in Thailand, where, three months into his contract with Muangthong United, he was appointed player-coach after Henrique Calisto was sacked. It did not go well: Muangthong were the reigning Thai Premier League champions, but ended up in third place, 25 points behind leaders Buriram PEA. With Fowler in charge, the team won only two of its last eight games, losing to the top two sides (Buriram and Chonburi) and dropped points against the bottom three teams as well.
Halfway through his 12-month contract, Fowler left Muangthong (incidentally, he has been replaced as coach by one-time Chelsea midfielder Slavisa Jokanovic) for the riches on offer in India. "That's not dead in water and I'm definitely still open to it."
Fowler still has his business interests, which he claims aren't as lucrative as has been reported, and are successful because he has employed good people -- "without sounding too ignorant, I have people looking after things for me as I have always concentrated on the football" -- and he enjoys engaging with fans on Twitter. "It keeps it real," he laughs.
But at the moment, it's a waiting game. Fowler wants one more chance to rage against the dying of the light.