AS A boy growing up in Toxteth, Robbie Fowler would have dreamed of scoring against Liverpool - and tomorrow he will finally have his chance.
The lad from an Evertonian family who became an idol of the Anfield Kop has kept a low profile the nearer Leeds' fixture with Liverpool has loomed. His personal website has not been updated since 14 December, when he used it to attack a photographer who had pictured him on a garage forecourt after Leeds' Christmas party, and there has been an absence of television interviews in the run-up to the game at Elland Road.
His manager, David O'Leary, said Fowler had talked little about the match against the side he once captained. "I've never heard him say he wants to prove Liverpool wrong for selling him. Since he's come here, he's stayed away from that and he's nothing to prove one way or the other."
It seems unthinkable that the travelling contingent from Merseyside will turn against him. Yes, Alan Shearer, whose goals gave Blackburn their first championship since the First World War and who turned down Manchester United for his home-town club, was jeered on his return to Ewood Park, but Liverpool supporters are a different breed. Fowler made much of his closeness to them and his desire to return to Merseyside once his career ends means he will always be "one of us."
His transfer from Anfield to Elland Road has not galvanised Leeds United, who are actually averaging fewer points per game since his pounds 11m move, but it has brought the best from Fowler. As he has played only 10 Premiership games in the all-white, the evidence is admittedly limited, but he has already scored one fewer goal than he managed in 27 matches for Liverpool last season.
If he maintains this ratio of scoring twice every three games, it will give him a goal average he has not had since the 1995-96 season - and O'Leary thinks Fowler will become even better now that Harry Kewell is fully fit to work the left flank. "Given the price we bought him for, I remember thinking that there was a catch somewhere," O'Leary said. …