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!!