On a warm summer’s day in 1994, a fresh-faced Scouser by the name of Robbie Fowler would write himself into the record books and permanently endear himself to the Liverpool faithful. 28th August 1994 is a date which all those lucky enough to be present at Anfield, two of whom were my parents, will remember forever. By this time, although the Reds still sported stars which as Ian Rush and John Barnes, we had gone almost four years with a title. As we now know this wait would go on for 26 more years. Liverpool were searching for their next star, looking for a hero to cling onto as the wait for our 19th title went on, the three rapid goals which Robbie fired in that day would be the start of something extremely special. He would go onto to become known as God by the Red half of Merseyside and by our fans around the globe. He is our fifth all-time leading goalscorer with 183 goals in 369 appearances across two spells with the club; he is also the sixth-highest scorer in his first 150 goals for the Reds with 86. If Liverpool does one thing well, it is goalscorers. For Fowler to be right up there is no mean feat. This is not just any football club, he registers alongside the likes of Rush, Roger Hunt, and Mo Salah to name just a few. Robbie’s career would go onto be blighted by injury but on that sunny day in 1994, the future looked incredibly bright.
Let’s go back to that day. Liverpool faced George Graham’s Arsenal, a side known for their defensive solidity, in the early phases of the 1994/5 season. Liverpool had started the season incredibly well with a 6-1 victory over Crystal Palace, the trauma which that side now raises in many Liverpool fans’ minds was a long way off in the future, Ian Rush and Steve McManaman both scored twice with Fowler and none other than the imperious Jan Molby topping off the scoring. Arsenal themselves had almost not won the league since the early part of the 1990s, but they would not be waiting half as long as we were required to do so, although the Arsenal side Liverpool faced in 1994 was not the force they would become under Arsène Wenger they still could not be taken lightly. Rather fittingly, we wore the very strip on which this season’s (2020/21) takes inspiration from. There’s never a bad time to look back on this momentous hat trick but now is certainly an excellent moment for it.
4 minutes and 33 seconds. That is all it took for Robbie to capture the imaginations of a generation. It all began on 26 minutes and finished with a flourish on 31 minutes. Liverpool were attacking the Anfield Road end, the Kop was closed for redevelopment so this was actually a blessing in disguise, and rather wonderfully this was also the end where my parents were sat. They sat just off to the left-hand side of the goal as they looked out onto the magic unfolding before them. Fowler’s first goal came after Rush uncharacteristically missed a header. The ball rolled down his body and fell into the path of a grateful Fowler who swiveled his body and fired the ball past the keeper with his favored left boot. In the years which have followed this incredible hat trick it is Fowler’s gleeful celebration which has stuck with people just as much as the goals he scored that day. Although he had grown up as an Evertonian, Fowler was a Red through and through by this stage and his face after each goal encapsulated the emotions of all the Liverpool fans watching on.
If the first was just a simple tap in, his second two were where we really began to see the pure excellence and talent of the youngster. Although he did fall away later in his career, mostly due to injury, the raw talent of Fowler was, and is, almost insurmountable. The second of the day came on 29 minutes and was the result of a driving run from McManaman. As McManaman reached the edge of the 18-yard box he slipped the ball to his left and into Fowler’s path. Fowler shifted the ball over to his left, although did somewhat get it stuck under his feet he somehow managed to dig out a tremendous low driving finish. The ball flew past the keeper and into the far right corner via a small deflection off the inside of the post. It was a sublime finish but in a way the third is really where we see the making of the man. Of the striker he would become, or indeed already was. A ball over the top from Barnes, another stunning player still gracing the side, was perfectly weighted into the path of an on rushing Fowler. He controlled the ball on his thigh before firing in with his left foot towards goal. But the keeper saved it his time, the crowd sighed, then in an instant Fowler was chasing after the free ball, controlling his with his left on the byline and scoring from the narrowest of angles with his weaker right foot. The crowd erupted! He had done it. A hat trick and the fastest in the Premier League era to boot. This record would not be broken for 21 years when, ironically enough, a pre-Liverpool Sadio Mane would smash the record in a game for Southampton. Like I said, Liverpool and goalscorer have a long and special history.
The hat trick happened the year before I was born but it was still Robbie who was my first favorite player for the Reds. Perhaps it was the discovery of a lovely Liverpool track jacket found at the back of a cupboard, bought by my parents on the day of the hat trick, that captured my heart. Stevie would soon take over as he grew into the superhero which most people my age idolise. But it was Robbie who was my first love. Sadly my main memories of him are that he was always injured! There is a cautionary tale here, Liverpool had a long period in our history when we over relied on, and therefore overplayed, young players. Think Michael Owen and even Steven Gerrard, a player who had constant groin issues, with Owen and Fowler both of them suffered a huge loss of form following major injuries. Robbie never reached the heights of his early Liverpool days but, considering he is our fifth highest goalscorer, they weren’t half bad. He is a true legend of our club and is part of a collection of players who gave their all to the club in the dark years as we waited for that elusive title. It was the likes of Robbie Fowler who brought joy to the fans in the hard times and of course, he was also part of the 2001 Treble winning side when it felt like we might be on the cusp of greatest once again. Just as Gerrard would do in the years after Fowler moved on, he made us dream and believe in the impossible.