PART 2 – The Spice Boys Myth

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.

Moat House Hotel LiverpoolYou 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.

Wonder BarMove 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.

Albert Dock

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.

Blue Bar LiverpoolHave a look at some photos of its interior.

_______________________________________
More about this scene in Part 3 which we will publish in a couple of days.

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29 Responses to “PART 2 – The Spice Boys Myth”

  1. Rich Says:

    Thanks Rupert. Another interesting read. However, I feel it should be pointed out that Robbie Fowler was not whiter-than-white in these incidents.

    Don’t get me wrong, Fowler has been a hero of mine since he made his debut and noone was more delighted than me when he returned last season. I would also never defend Oldham’s part in the whole of Houllier’s despicable anti-Robbie campagn.

    However, the spice boys culture was not a complete myth and you do have to ask why professional sportsmen were out until 2am in questionable bars (Wonder Bar is not by any stretch a classy place – I believe it was also the place where Jon Otsemobor was shot).

    Although Fowler was far from the only one, or even the worst one, and it did not justify Houllier’s victimisation of him (and wasn’t the reason for him wanting Fowler out at all) I think its going a bit far to suggest that the players at that time behaved 100% professionally.

    At the very least he showed a lack of judgement by giving Houllier a stick to beat him with, knowing that the manager wanted to force him out of the club. He could have behaved in a much smarter way

  2. rupertinsider Says:

    Actually, I’d like to learn more about the Spice Boys myth. I never knew how that strange phrase started. But I have subsequently read some theories.

    I always believed it was a media inspired exaggeration to say that Liverpool players were more prone to having a good time or high jinks than the players at other clubs or that they were indisciplined and needed a schoomaster type like Houllier to sort them out.

    Under Evans the performance in the PL was not noticeably worse, possibly marginally better, pro rata, than under Houllier. Under Evans, Fowler, for example, was the fastest scorer in LFC’s history and nationally acknowledged as Britain’s finest striker. I would say that in their social behaviour Liverpool players were much more “small town” and even “innocent” compared to some of their colleagues in London.

    Since I don’t know for certain exactly when or why the Spice Boy’s label started, I can’t be sure, but I think Robbie was about 20 or 21 at the time.

    When the media treat the subject they usually begin with the story of how the Liverpool team was decked out in white suits at the 1996 FA Cup Final which they lost. Robbie was 20-21 then. It had nothing to do with him. It was an idea proposed to the club by David James who was an Armarni model and got the suits as a special deal. And what was so wrong with that? Redknap’s modelling is also cited as evidence of a Spice Boys mentality. What was wrong with that? Later we saw Owen modelling and Beckham and Henri – and nobody thinks it undermines their commitment to training or to football.

    Neil Roddick got into some scrapes and he was eventually shipped out as was Collymore. Neither of them were Liverpool lads.

    Returning to Fowler, the most cited “proof” I can find of his being a Spice Boy is that after he was fouled by a Chelsea player, he flashed his arse to suggest that the player was gay. That wasn’t nice and he was properly punished for it – although a four match ban and heavy fine seemed way out of proportion.

    Then there was the famous sniffing of the white line when he scored against Everton. MacMannaman tried to stop him, knowing how it would be used against him. Fowler has explained his pent-up emotion at being called a smack-head by Everton fans wherever he went in his home town and that they also targeteted his sister and family. It was not a wise reaction – but hardly appropriate to lump it in with a Spice Boys type of label. Liverpool fans call Cheslea players “rent boys” and jeer at the ugliness of some Manchester Untied players suggesting they are the product of incest involving their mother. But the difference is that the Chelsea players and United playes don’t have to live among Liverpool supporters, like Fowler has to live among Everton supporters.

    Then the Spice Boy people mention Fowler revealing his support for the docker’s strike – his father’s friends – after he scored at Anfield by lifting his shirt to show a messge. Another fine! Again hardly an empty-headed Spice Boys type of thing to do.

    So then it comes down to him being around Liverpool on his time off mixing with fans in pubs and clubs and restaurants. I don’t think it fair to say that anyone who goes out to socialise in his home town dining is somehow associated with all the bad things that happen in the city. Because Fowler took the mother of his two small children to the Wonder Bar – the week before he was to marry her, should not mean he is associated with some shooting or roughness that would also take place there. I’ve read that the Wonder Bar does have more than its fair share of incidents – and perhaps Robbie never knew that before that night. It has never been disputed that all he did there was arrive, have a drink or two and attempt to leave.

    My post above is intended to demystify all the rumour about the centre of Liverpool. Its actually is quite small. It’s Robbie’s neighbourhood. Its very hard to find any place not populated by Everton supporters. I have seen Robbie Fowler many times in social settings and I have never seen him drinking heavily or carrying on. I’m not saying he did not from time to time – what 20-26 yr old doesn’t? I’d prefer to believe the evidence of my own eyes and of my family, friends and associates – and the evidence of his performance as a footballer – than the rumours put out by London tabloids and internet sites who have a vested interest in making money from gossip.

    The one serious theme in all the Fowler bashing was the issue of fitness. Following his very serious injuries and long lay-offs, some thought he was too heavy, too slow to regain his old form. Some claimed that this was the result of a bad lifetstyle and bad attitude. They had a variety of reasons for having that prejudice – I’ve suggested some. They set out to use the Spice Boys myth as a convenient catch-all phrase to make the facts fit their prejudice.

    Fowler was a changed player because he had badly injured, and laid off for a long time. He has a body type that tends to overweight unless he is worked hard. His timing needs lots of match practice. He used to get 90 minutes regularly under Evans. Houllier preferred Owen and Heskey so Fowler could not get the match time or the work he needed. They are football facts. They did not need the layers of innuendo rumours and lies about Spice Boy to embellish them.

  3. Robbie Says:

    Excellent post Ruppert.

  4. Rich Says:

    Thanks Rupert. For the record I think you are spot on about the fitness issue. Houllier messed up time and again on that, both by not allowing players who need matches to have them and then forcing other players back before they were ready. But thats another story of course.

    I was not suggesting that Fowler was involved in anything untoward by going out around Liverpool that late, and to be fair to him, Wonder Bar was pretty new at that time and that area is usually considered nicer than the other side of town, but I just think that it was pretty naive of him to be seen out in those situations at that time when he knew it could be used against him. Most 20-26 year olds can and do go out until the early hours and get drunk but generally they are not among the most famous people in the city and won’t attract attention. Not his fault but he should have known better, which I’m sure he would now admit.

    As for the wider Spice Boys thing, the label I believe was lazy tablod journalism. Other clubs’ players were the same or worse but they won trophies and we didn’t. Man United suffered similar criticism in the early 80s I believe.
    The going out was real enough but because we were Liverpool and because we didn’t win anything and were expected to we got the criticism.

  5. An Observer Says:

    Such memories, the Moat House is now gone to make way for the redevelopment along with the BBC studios etc and the Wonderbar has changed it’s name.

    Still, something remain the same, fatty remains fat and still likes like a kid.

  6. rupertinsider Says:

    Maybe Oldham will build his new Kop-themed hotel on the site of the old Moat House and ask Robbie to open it!

  7. lobster Says:

    Superb writings Rupert! Thanks!

  8. univofchicago Says:

    This whole Houllier/Fowler business is all new to me…

    Fascinating stuff!

    Keep it up Rupert Bear!

  9. rupertinsider Says:

    Is Oldham submitting? I logged into the free forums today to be met by a blinding, flashing neon bar telling me I’ve won, then changing to congratulate me and then changing again to call me a winner! I’m quite excited. But what have I won?

  10. DelBoyOldham Says:

    cheers rupert excellnt writing

    i believe fowler’s time had come for being sold – but like you i also thought the PR machine in force about him 2 years before his departure was sickening

  11. rupertinsider Says:

    I communicated with him about two months earlier that if he did not go Houllier would ruin him, so I’m not complaining. He did well at Leeds, kept up his career 1 goal in 2 games, scored a hat-trick – the second that season – the first being for Liverpool against Leicester. Too bad Leeds sold off all its players and went bust. At Citeh, Robbie got new injuries and then got screwed by the Keegan-Anelka deal. Basically Anelka could do anything he wanted, or he would take the ball and go home. He didnt need to pass to anyone, and didn’t. It was only after he and Keegan left that Robbie started to shine again. He became something of a crowd favourite.

  12. univofchicago Says:

    I was one of the people that supported Houllier’s decision to sell Fowler. I didn’t think that Fowler and Owen could play well together, and believed that Owen’s game was better suited to Houllier’s system. Since I wasn’t active on the forums then, the transfer didn’t come as a big deal to me…which is why I I find all this fascinating – to read from another perspective. I didn’t know that there was all this manipulation going on by certain individuals…

  13. fat_boy_fat Says:

    Couple of good pieces there Rupert.

    I’ll throw my 2 pence worth in to this.

    I used to work in REDS the nightclub on edge lane (its not there now). When we had a game at home either on a saturday or sunday most of the squad would come into reds on the night of that game. Everyone from fowler, redknapp mcmanaman etc, also they would bring some of the players they knew from the team they were playing. Anyway what i would say about them is they very very rarely got totally pissed. Mosy of the time they had their own little corner, with the table filled with wine and they would all be sitting or standing there talking between each other and the many girls that would be trying to get close to them.
    The only time i remember them getting total wasted was when we beat vila 3-0 at anfield and they had brought Ugo Eihgoi (spelling?) with them. So i feel the spice boy tag was a bit over played as even when they had no training the next day they were generally well controlled in the countless times i seen them

  14. ROCK Says:

    does anyone actually have copies of these editorials that were written ?

  15. rupertinsider Says:

    ROCK: Ive looked on that archive.org thing that Insider posted. It has very little KT content in the 2001 time frame and none at all in the criticial period I am writing about. Its almost like it was wiped out.

    Oldham has never denied the “Close the Door on Your Way Out” headline. Many of his other editorial comments were made in posts in the forum, as he does now. There was only one forum in those days and it was free. There was also an email ring of the forums leading posters – almsot all of them Fowler bashers – probably a forerunner of the Insider or Gold Club – and Oldham participated in that, too.

  16. jj_sawyer Says:

    rupert

    i’ve managed to get this page in the archive of November 2001 but some of the links aren’t archved

    http://web.archive.org/web/20011214023030/www.koptalk.com/archive/news/2001-2002/november.shtml

  17. rupertinsider Says:

    It looks like the actual title was :

    ” EDITORIAL: Thanks for the memories but shut the door on the way out Robbie”

    My memory was close but not exact. I still don’t remember the “thanks for the memories” part of it.

    I read it within minutes of him publishing it. I suppose he did not amend it as a result of the objections?

  18. rupertinsider Says:

    And don’t forget to look at this one:

    http://web.archive.org/web/20011214232743/www.koptalk.com/archive/news/2001-2002/november/23e.shtml

    In one of the weirdest lies Oldham has ever told he claimed that Fowler proved he was a reader of KT by calling in to object to being called fat by one of the posters and to say he was not in talks with Leeds United!

  19. rupertinsider Says:

    I also see from the above that he was advertising an “Insider” section at that time and offering updates on the Fowler “story” as an inducement to sign up for it.

    I never joined so perhaps that’s why I don’t remember it. Most of the action took place on the free forums which were very active.

  20. rupertinsider Says:

    * Subscribe to the ‘Insider’ online today or join by post within the next week for an update on Robbie’s transfer status and of course, all the other tit bits of interest concerning every Liverpool player. Join within the next week and we’ll see that any updates you have missed (such as today’s bumper update) are sent out to you upon request! If you have subscribed to the Insider online prior to 7pm last night (Thursday) and you have not received an update, please contact us immediately.

    FREE Nokia 3330 + FREE WAP + FREE SMS

    Have you subscribed to the ‘Insider’ yet?
    There could be more news on this article which we can’t publish on site

  21. rupertinsider Says:

    I had to laugh at this excerpt :

    “Naturally Kop Talk did not report the speculation because we knew it was crap and had it been true, our ‘Insider’ readers would have known first.”

  22. paulcooper4 Says:

    did the kuntalk plane fly over the millenium? what was the fat cunts message?

  23. Tom Says:

    Yes, dunkin was last seen floating half a mile above the millenium stadium. Reports that he was enjoying a woodpecker cider at the time have yet to be confirmed.

  24. andy Says:

    No – some bollocks about adverse weather conditions.

  25. univofchicago Says:

    Did anyone see Fatty at the Millenium?

    Someone should have just kicked his fat ass…

  26. ROCK Says:

    he was high up in the “bleachers” judging by his pics.
    would you recognise him?

    did any of the older members ever meet him?
    he used to claim that he met members all the time…

  27. Robbie Says:

    Plane cancelled due to weather conditions…
    Well I watched it on tv and it looked like it was sunny in Cardiff…

  28. rupertinsider Says:

    Perhaps his plane is designed to fly only in low cloud and can’t handle bright blue skies?

  29. Steve from Singapore Says:

    Great posts everyone, totally agree with Rupert abt the ‘Spice Boys’ . I loved these bits part: “They (the media and blame culture tabloids) had a variety of reasons for having that prejudice – I’ve suggested some. They set out to use the Spice Boys myth as a convenient catch-all phrase to make the facts fit their prejudice. They are football facts. They did not need the layers of innuendo rumours and lies about Spice Boy to embellish them. ” Absolute gold, and I think, absolute truth. The saddest thing is that the power of the press and PR successfully managed to taint the careers of Fowler, McManaman and Redknapp, who might possibly have been as ‘clean’ as Giggs, Beckham and Scholes.


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