Koptalk’s Goodbye to Robbie Fowler – “Close the Door on Your Way Out!”
by Rupert Insider
August 11, 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! 🙂 But to break it up, we will print it in three parts over a number of days. Subsequently, it will be archived as a single document).PART 2I’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. One of them was in his late thirties, and he was subsequently sent to jail after being convicted of badly injuring Robbie’s face.Most genuine editors would know better than to endanger the prospect of a fair trial by speculating about circumstances of the evidence against the accused. But Oldham is not a genuine editor. He rummaged about like a wino in a dumpster. Perhaps it was a cocaine deal gone wrong, he speculated, perhaps extortionists who had something on Robbie. And when that hit-generating muck-raking was proven false by the trial he kept it going with “editorials” about the danger of Fowler’s habit of hanging about in bad company. He constantly cited the “spice-boys” myth as evidence that Houllier still had some clearing-out to do.
Have a look at the photo of the Moat House hotel as it was at that time.
You can see the restaurant. It opens out into the hotel’s small lobby. There are a couple of bar-stools and small tables on the right. That’s where Robbie, and Steve McManaman and several of their friends, usually reserve team players, used to sit, tell stories and sip a beer from a bottle or a soft drink once or twice a week. They usually arrived at about 6.30 and left between 8 or 9, although on the night of the assault they were there later. They sat right there, as you see in the photo, practically in the hotel lobby, among the hotel guests and diners – with families milling around. The kids and parents would go over to ask for autographs or to pose for photos and the shyer ones would wait for Robbie or Steve as they made their way into the lobby and along the corridor that led to the toilet where Robbie was attacked.
Why did they use the Moat House hotel? It was not posh. In USA terms it was comparable to a small Howard Johnson – actually more like a motel. In the next few years, Liverpool would see the rapid growth in first class hotels, restaurants, clubs and bars – but in 2001 and 2002 there were very few. And as basic as it was then, the Moat House, was frequently hired by LFC for social events, or to provide “day rooms” when the squad were due elsewhere downtown and needed a place to assemble or change. Young players arriving at the club or those on trial were sometimes boarded there. The staff members in the hotel were very familiar with the goings and comings of LFC players. For Robbie it had something of a family atmosphere where he was among friends. (The Moat House was also used by Everton FC for similar purposes. Duncan Ferguson lived there for several months the first time he arrived.)
The hotel is located in the heart of the Liverpool shopping district, across the street from the BBC studios, between the bus station and a car park, and a few yards from the MacDonald’s on the Lord Street shopping precinct. It was a million miles away from the kind of swish, dimly-lit, cocaine-ridden night clubs associated with Chelsea players, for example, or the drug culture in the Manchester clubs were United players hung out. Only someone like Oldham, a stranger to Liverpool, and known to be contemptuous of Liverpudlians, could describe the place or the company as bad. It was not a place for “spice boys” – more like a diner for the boys from the neighborhood.
Move forward, to June 2001 and five minutes walk away to the Wonder Bar on Slater Street.
That’s where Robbie was attacked again at 2 am in the morning. He had been visiting the club with a couple of family friends and his partner Kerrie, whom he was to marry the following week. Both LFC and Houllier said the next day that Robbie was a blameless victim in that incident. But on KT there was the usual nudge-nudge, wink-wink, know- what- I- mean. It was another piece of ceramic in the “spice boys” mosaic which was Oldham’s and the tabloids frame of reference.
Anyone familiar with Liverpool will know that at any given time 50% or more of bystanders are Everton supporters. In the wee small hours, and while under the influence, some of them will act out a kind of tribal rage that Fowler – an Evertonian when he was a small kid – betrayed them by signing for LFC when he was fifteen.
So why did he visit the town centre in the evening? Mainly because he was born and raised in Toxeth – less than a mile away. His father and his uncles and other members of his family worked there or close by in the docks. It was home. Where else would he go?
It’s not difficult, therefore, to understand why Fowler and McManaman and many other players began to visit the new restaurants and bars in the Albert Dock, ten minute walk from the Moat House hotel. The Dock was on the bank of the River Mersey: it was quiet and out of the way: it had its own security guards: it was in the same complex as the appartments where several of the LFC players lived – including their close friend Jamie Redknapp.
The Blue Bar at the Albert Dock was one of those new Albert Dock bar-restaurant complexes. Back in 2001 it was not so well-known and not as well-established as a hang-out for celebrities – the owners had to work at it. But in time Houllier dined there and sports journalists who covered LFC, like David Maddock of The Mirror, and players like Fowler and McManaman and Redknapp. When Anelka came to LFC, his agent-brother got a job there as a DJ. Nowadays you might even see Rafa there from time to time or Alonso, Sissoko or other players. But what Fowler, MacManamand and the others did not know back in 2002 was the one of the owners of the Blue Bar, involved in its day to day management, was an active psoter on KopTalk. I will comment more on the KopTalk- Blue Bar connection in Part 3.
Have a look at some photos of its interior.
More about this scene in Part 3 which we will publish in a couple of days.