Koptalk’s Goodbye to Robbie Fowler – “Close the Door on Your Way Out!”

by Rupert Insider

August 10, 2006

(This topic has been dealt with before on different pages. Several new readers have asked for an overview. For those not familiar with Liverpool I have added information about the restaurants and bars involved in the story. If you don’t like long posts, don’t even start!J But to break it up, we will print it in three parts over a number of days. Subsequently, it will be archived in the Read Me section as a single document).


On the afternoon of Wednesday, the 28th November, 2001, Liverpool Football Club announced that terms had been agreed for the transfer of Robbie Fowler to Leeds United.

It was probably the biggest outward transfers in the history of the club. But Koptalk failed to predict it. It’s “Anfield Mole” had gone up a blind alley again.

Within a couple of hours of the public announcement, Duncan Oldham, the self-styled “Editor” of Koptalk published a mocking editorial entitled “Close the Door on Your Way Out”.

His site received more hits that day than at any other time, before or since.

We know from many sources – including a published interview with Jamie Redknapp – that Robbie was devastated, distraught and in tears as he said goodbye to his team mates and the staff at Melwood and Anfield he had known since he was fifteen years of age. Houllier had not given him a chance to say goodbye to his loyal fans on the Kop. It could not have helped him to know that the Editor of the largest supporters’ fan site (as it was at that time) was celebrating his departure with the spiteful cry “good riddance to bad rubbish”.

But there was more to come.

When Peter Risdale, the Executive Director of Leeds United, announced that his club’s medicals would take a day to complete, Oldham was quick to explain that what Risdale really meant was that Fowler would be subjected to rigorous tests for drug and alcohol abuse – so the transfer might not yet happen. When Friday brought the news that Robbie had passed the medical tests with flying colours, Oldham did not then concede the flip-side of his argument – that the extra-stringent tests refuted the slander and lies about Fowler, alcohol and drugs that Oldham had been peddling for more than two years.

He just shifted the direction of the attack. The transfer fee was £11 million, somewhat less than Liverpool’s presumed asking price of £15 and less than the £12 million Chelsea was thought to have offered earlier that year. Oldham offered an “inside” spin that the actual fee was nearer £8 million, with additional monies to be paid only after certain appearance and performance thresholds, which, he said, Fowler would not be able to reach. He went on to say that the £11 million was merely a face-saving figure. It amounted to humiliation for Fowler considering that Owen would fetch offers in the £40-50 million ranges from European teams.

Well we all know what codswallop all that turned out to be!

A contributor to the Wikipaedia entry on LFC states what many believe – that while Gerard Houllier acted as though he was an admirer of Fowler’s character and talents he simultaneously orchestrated a PR campaign to force him out of the club. Chris Bascombe of the Liverpool Echo has written retrospectively on Houllier’s manipulative tactics with respect to Fowler. And Fowler, himself, has dealt with it in his recent autobiography.

There are some who suggest that in 1999-2001 Koptalk aligned itself with the alleged Houllier’s strategy to weaken the hold Fowler had on the affections of the supporters and the Board of Directors.

Certainly, Koptalk’s forums were dominated by articulate anti-Fowler posters who seemed to regard themselves as Houllier’s little-helpers. Many of them also related their anti-Fowler stance to their support of Michael Owen. They regarded Fowler as the injured but recovering “rival” to their favourite, both in the LFC and England squads. But that was their prerogative as fans – to express opinions – and, to be fair; there was a minority on Koptalk who tried to oppose the dominant view.

But this blog is not about Koptalk’s posters, it is about Duncan Oldham. And we know he had no dealings with Houllier or Owen or anyone at Anfield. So what were his motives for his personal anti-Fowler campaign? For a reply, look no further than what he said on his site last week – that in “this lark” of running a web site his motive is “always to look after No.1”.

And that’s what this blog post is about – not about the merits of the Houllier-Fowler conflict – but about some of the ways Oldham sought to make money from it.

I’d like to take you back to July 2000, to the Moat House hotel on Paradise Street in Liverpool. That’s where Robbie was assaulted in the lobby toilet by two guys. But that is the subject of PART 2 which will be posted in a couple of days!!


22 Responses to “Koptalk’s Goodbye to Robbie Fowler – “Close the Door on Your Way Out!””

  1. Whois Lookup Says:

    In the interests of fairness it may be worth pointing out that the sale of Fowler for 12m was applauded by many matchgoing Reds who had tired of his lethargic performances. At the time I’d suggest a forum such as RAOTL was split 50:50 on the issue of whether he should be sold.

    If you’re going to criticise Oldham on the issue avoid “point of view” comments and concentrate on the facts of what he did wrong in the Fowler case. It’s clear to us all Rupert that you’re a massive Fowler fan and hate Houllier but that’s not what the blog should be about.

  2. lobster Says:

    Its like watching LOTR, just cant wait for the 2nd episode after watching the first. Com’on Rupert!! 🙂

  3. univofchicago Says:

    Whois Lookup:

    To be fair to Rupert though, he is trying to build the story up. He has even emphasized at the end that this ‘series’ of blog entries is essentially about how “Oldham sought to make money of it” and not about different viewpoints.

    He is building the story up and giving people like me, who know very little of this Fowler/Houllier business, a thorough background on the issue before he gets down to the nitty gritty details of what Oldham “did wrong”. Esp given that it happened a long time ago!

  4. Rich Says:

    Good post. Has anyone got a copy of the ‘Close the door on your way out’ editorial?

    The best thing is that this backfired spectacularly badly for Oldham. I’m sure he has no real problem with Fowler, he just joined the anti-Fowler bandwagon to get noticed by Houllier. The problem was that in doing this he probably ruined any chance he had of getting in with any of the players, who all like Robbie Fowler

    I wonder what he would say about all this now that he pretends to like Fowler

  5. lobster Says:

    The fatso relentless attack on Robbie starting from a year + before his actual sale to leeds was the reason i gave up koptalk the first time.

  6. paulcooper4 Says:

    whoever isnt banned, go and have a look at kuntalk, someone is about to post a couple of cracking photos of dunk on there and get himself banned. cant wait to see dunks reply!!!

  7. rupertinsider Says:

    Whois LookUp

    As is your right, you have persistently criticised my posts whenever I touch on the role of posters in the Oldham story. You have also communicated with the blog behind the scenes in an attempt to have it censor my posts.

    In the post above you take a step further and attempt to define my personal motivation. In response l’ll attempt to define yours. I believe you were deeply involved in the KT talk majority in 2000-2002 and actively articulated the anti-Fowler, pro-Houllier, pro-Owen syndrome I mentioned above. I think that you still do whenever you see an opportunity – on your own site and on others. Indeed your post today is yet another attempt.

    I have made clear in this and other posts that the blog is about Oldham. It is not about the merits or otherwise of the Fowler-Houllier.

    But I think it intellecutally dishonest to treat Oldham in isolation. He established most of the patterns and practices you want us to criticise in 1999-2002 partly because of how he was able to exploit the Houllier-Fowler conflict and very active articulate posters like yourself.

    On the specific point about the transfer fee being 12 million not 11 million. I looked it up yesterday. 11 million was quoted widely by both the local and national media at the time. My post was about what was reported at the time and what Oldham said about it at the time.

    If you are implying that the LFC accounts show that the fee was actually 12 million that would be of interest, but would not alter my observation.

    Perhaps you could cite your authority for the 12 million fee?

  8. jonymadness Says:

    Where are the pics going to be posted paul? im waiting!!!

  9. paulcooper4 Says:

    few more following suit now, hahaha i wish i could see it

  10. paulcooper4 Says:

    look for mattbiscan

  11. jonymadness Says:

    link didnt work, will keep an eye out.

  12. jonymadness Says:

    the post is gone already, the spies must be out!

  13. Rich Says:

    What were the pics of? Can we see them anywhere else?

  14. insideme Says:

    can you post the pics here?

  15. Paul.S Says:

    Of course, the pics are in this thread –


    Or more specifically on Page 3 of that thread.

  16. rupertinsider Says:

    That is very funny and well-executed. Come on Insider – I’m sure you can match that.

  17. Lindsay Says:

    I nearly choked laughing 🙂

  18. ROCK Says:

    hasnt dunk always claimed that he was told robbie was staying hours before the transfer or he was told to give that impression by someone and that all would be revealed in his book…
    seem to recall something along those lines..

  19. rupertinsider Says:

    Rock: You may remember that Phil Thompson was assistant manager at the time. A day or two before the Fowler transfer was announced, he said “Robbie isn’t going anywhere”. Famous last words!

    As you know Oldham usually takes public announcements like that and twists them to make it seem he had independent insider information which is now “confirmed” by the public announcement. He was really caught with his pants down on that one.

    Several times since he has bitterly complained about the Thompson announcement.

    In fact he often quotes it when the club makes an announcement which denies what Oldham’s has predicted. He reminds people that the club’s denials are not worth anything and cites the Thompson-Fowler denial as an example.

    But there is even another layer to that story. One of Oldham’s most frequent (and clever) posters at that time was a guy who claimed to be German but raised in Kirkby, Liverpool, a promsing football as a youth – but injured and a life-long friend of Thompson. He was just over 40 years of age. He used to provide Oldham with information he said he got directly from Thompson. He would not mention his name on the forums but claimed it was from a long-nosed, member of the management staff who was born in Kirkby.

    Much of his news or information was critical of Fowler in a petty kind of way. He really came into his own during the controversy of Fowler kicking the ball into the net during training and scaring Thompson and then the soap-opera about being dropped from the Charity Shield and Houllier’s threats on TV that he would not play again until he apologised. If his source was Thompson he certainly got his point of view across on KT where it was rapturously received.

    However, to be fair to KT, another poster invaded from a different site, to give a really detailed account of what happened that day, citing several players who were disgusted with the way Fowler was treated and supporting his side of the story. They were adamant that he had done nothing wrong and Thompson and Houllier had overeacted.

    That German-Kirkby poster was one of Oldham’s strongest supporters. He used to visit us on kraptalk.com to defend him. But subsequently he made a public announcement to the effect that he had become very disillusioned that KT had changed. It was now about Oldham rather than LFC, he said, and very manipulative. He resigned from KT and posted on other boards for a time – but its a a few years since I’ve seen his psuedonym.

  20. erix Says:

    If I remeber correct it was Phil Thompson who said the fee was closer to £12 or £12,5 million.

  21. rupertinsider Says:

    Its amazing. Most on KT were falling all over themselves to say it was only 8+ million, and a humiliation for Fowler when all the media said 11+. As time passed, the very same people started to emphasise it was 11+million because they wanted to praise Houllier’s smarts (even though it was Parry who negotiated the sale). But this is the first time I have heard 12 + million – and you say it was from Thompson – someone who has a vested interest in justifying the transfer? Maybe when his book comes out Houllier will say it was 15+ plus. 🙂

  22. paulcooper4 Says:

    I always thought it was 11 mill. My take on the fowler thing is at the time, i was made up to get a sackful of money for him as he really had looked poor for quite some time. Then you realise that you dont know what youve got til its gone. By the time we started getting linked with him coming back i was begging for it to happen (especially after realising how houllier had basically forced him out) and am just as happy about it today as i was the day he resigned. every time he has played for us since he came back he has looked the best forward on the pitch.

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