Robbie Fowler: A fifth place finish and FA Cup victory would be a successful season for Liverpool
The definition of success has shifted dramatically in soccer over recent years and in the opinion of Liverpool great Robbie Fowler, winning has become an under-rated ambition.
With a top four finish and Champions League qualification viewed as the priority for the top half a dozen clubs in the Premier League, claiming glory the FA Cup or the Capital One Cup has become a consolation prize in the eyes of managers, players and even some supporters.
Yet the joy of witnessing your team lifting a trophy still provides a rush of emotion that is hard to match and ahead of this weekend’s FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley, Fowler has reminded Brendan Rodgers and his Liverpool players that their status as club greats could be cemented as they prepare to take on Aston Villa on Sunday.
Speaking exclusively to Independent.ie at the launch of the new ticket exchange website http://myfacevalue.co/, Fowlers suggested Liverpool can still turn this into a memorable season if they can finish it off by winning the FA Cup final next month.
“I got into this game to be a winner and to get medals that confirmed I was a winner and when I look back on my career, the best days are the ones where we actually won trophies,” begins the former striker who scored 183 goals for Liverpool and won five major honours with the Anfield club.
“The great Liverpool teams of the past won the big trophies and if Brendan and this set of players win the FA Cup next month, they will join some of those greats who brought success to this great club.
“My first trophy was the 1995 League Cup final at Wembley and celebrating on the pitch with my team-mates after the game was just a fantastic experience. That is what you dream about when you come into this game and I was lucky to win a few more trophies in my Liverpool career after that.
“We all appreciate that qualifying for the Champions League is important in the modern game because the money on offer in that competition vital to all the top clubs, but ask all the Manchester United players who won trophies under Alex Ferguson whether they look back on top four finishes with any pride. I bet they don’t.
“They were all about winning cups and leagues and that’s why I say Liverpool’s season could still be successful if they finish fifth in the Premier League and win the FA Cup. Of course that would be successful.”
Liverpool’s drive to win the FA Cup has been fuelled by the imminent end of the Steven Gerrard era at the club, with the outgoing skipper set to join LA Galaxy this summer after a 17-year stay as a Reds icon.
With the FA Cup final falling on Gerrard’s 35th birthday, the romantics have suggested fate may play a hand in offering the hero of Liverpool’s 2005 Champions League win a fitting farewell and yet Fowler is quick to play down that fantasy.
“Liverpool can’t be thinking they need to win the FA Cup for Stevie because sport doesn’t work like that,” says Fowler. “They have to try and win the trophy for themselves and for the club because you cannot get too wrapped up in the emotions surrounding Stevie’s birthday and the fact it happens to be on FA Cup final day.
“Aston Villa won’t be rolling over to help Steven Gerrard have a nice end to his Liverpool career on Sunday and I’m sure Arsenal will not be interested in that either if they are in the final next month.
“Obviously, it would be a wonderful story if Gerrard walks up the steps at Wembley next months and lifts the FA Cup on his final day as Liverpool captain, but fairy tales don’t happen too often in this game. Although it would be amazing if this one became reality.”
Gerrard’s place in Rodgers team for Sunday’s Wembley date with Villa is less than assured after injuries and suspensions have disrupted his progress in 2015 and Fowler empathises with his former team-mate as he edges towards the final chapter of his career.
“I remember in my final days at Liverpool that I was struggling to perform as I wanted due to injuries and it is a difficult position to be in,” reflects Fowler. “Stevie is still a great player and has so much to offer, but it is difficult when you get to the end of your career and you can’t quite do what you used to do.
“Stevie could sit on his backside and collect his money, but that has never been his attitude. He wants to be part of the Liverpool team and will still feel he can be a big player in the Villa game on Sunday and hopefully the FA Cup final as well.”
The next step in Fowler’s career appears to be edging closer, with the 40-year-old eager to take his first steps into management. “I am doing my coaching badges and I would like to be a manager at some point,” Fowler concludes.
“I have spoken to a few people and they say all tell me it is a tough business to be in, but football is the only thing I have ever known and the next best thing to playing is working with players on the training ground every day.
“While it’s great being an ambassador for Liverpool these days, I want to have a more of a hands on role in the game and management is the way to get that.
“I’d be more than happy to start out in the lower leagues and work my way up. You just need someone to give you a chance to get a foot on the ladder in coaching and hopefully someone will give me that.”
Liverpool greats John Aldridge and Robbie Fowler are supporting http://myfacevalue.co/, the ticket exchange website for all sports and music to sell their unwanted tickets on at a face value price.