Koptalk’s Goodbye to Robbie Fowler – “Shut the Door on Your Way Out!”by Rupert Insider
August 14, 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 have posted it in three parts over a number of days. Subsequently, it will be archived as a single document. This is the final part – Part 3).In 2001 Koptalk was probably the largest of the unofficial supporter sites at the time. Oldham claimed that it sometimes got as many as 10 million hits a month. He also claimed in a so-called editorial in 2002, that his technique of “picking on” a single player i.e. Fowler, helped him generate as many as 2 million hits a month on the forums, alone.A very large part of Oldham’s commercial “success” was based on his false claim to be an “Insider” at Anfield, Melwood and the Academy and to be constantly in touch with other “Insiders”. Not to put to fine a point on it – he sold information. Much if it was given away on his free forums, but only to generate a market for it. Having whetted the appetite of the freeloaders, he then held back on the really juicy stuff. He urged everyone to pay to become an “Insider” like him or a VIP – one of the few – and to call back several times a day on premium-rated phone lines for “updates”.
Usually he made up the information or relied on a fictitious Informer and his friend Horse, Guru and an Anfield Mole and Wallet as well as on other fantasist and blaggers who joined in the “game”.In those day’s, KopTalk was dominated by users who were obsessed with Fowler and believed that he should be kept out of the LFC and England team. Most of them were from the South of England. Some of them met up to watch LFC matches in a pub near Liverpool Street in London. Many of the most vocal frequently referred to Fowler’s “unprofessional” lifestyle and conduct in Liverpool. Oldham and a select few of Koptalk’s more dedicated Fowler-bashers were part of a confidential email ring – they even tried to recruit me to it. I got one about KopTalk’s exclusive about the the now infamous arrival of Sol Campbell for transfer talks with Houllier – you know during the weekend when Houllier was out of the UK and Sol Campbell was in London preparing to sign a new contract with Arsenal on the Monday.
_______________________________Oldham would used whatever information he got to reinforce his claim that he had “exclusive” and “inside” information about Fowler. As banal as the information was, it contributed to the myth that Oldham was trying to create, that he was part of the inner circle at LFC, a buddy and a drinking partner of the players, a member of their exclusive clubs and privy to their thoughts.Oldham saw his hits rising sharply with every alleged “revelation” about Robbie Fowler. It brought in real money – advertising revenue – and new paying members to the “Insider”. He came to depend on the income. In fact he began to act as though Fowler was his very own business asset to be exploited. Instead of saying what Robbie had done last night, Oldham would post on KT that Robbie had just arrived at the such-and-such a bar, right now. The problem was that Robbie was not at these bars as often as Oldham said – in fact not often at all. Some Liverpool users of Koptalk spotted this. Oldham’s solution was to widen his surveillance.Oldham’s need to know what Fowler was doing had become chronic. He needed to appear all-knowing, all-seeing – the spider at the centre of a shadowy web of informants. He was building a business model on that very concept.
And Koptalk became the place to go if you were interested in gossip about Robbie Fowler, whether you were a genuine fan of his, a basher or a lazy tabloid reporter looking for an idea for a salacious story. And wherever Fowler was – whether having a sandwich and beer in the afternoon in a quiet pub in the small town of Prescot close to the home of his wife’s parents, or in a restaurant in Formby near his family home or downtown with other players – it was reported on KT. And the insinuation was usually that if Fowler was in a restaurant he must have been drinking and if he was in a pub he must have been drinking to excess.
Oldham often says that this or that piece of information he has would be worth thousands of pounds if sold to the tabloids – he said it again a couple of weeks ago. He says it so often you have to wonder if he knows the market price of information precisely because he is active in that market – as seller. We know he never pays.
Certainly, there were instances in 2000/2001 when KT allegations about Fowler would then appear in the tabloids. Did Oldham sell it to them? Or did he pass it on for free in the hope of getting a quote praising KT that he could then use as a banner headline on his site? Would his supplying the tabloids explain his opposition to the boycott of the S** – his wearing their promotional hat and using their stories? I don’t know, but there are reasonable grounds for suspicion. I’ll cite one of them. It was on Tuesday 2nd October 2001 – four days before England’s crucial World Cup qualifying match at old Trafford against Greece – in which Beckham scored with a last minute free kick. Steve Gerrard, Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman had been selected for the squad. It was an opportunity for Fowler to re-establish himself in the national team.About 7-8 pm on that Tuesday evening, Oldham made a post on Koptalk that Fowler and McManaman were at that very moment in the Living Room bar-restaurant in Liverpool. It’s a favourite haunt of some LFC players.
Within hours, in time for the early morning editions, the Koptalk revelation was picked up by the tabloids. The Daily Express went with a worse-case scenario. It said that the two players were out drinking only eleven hours before they were to join the England squad – not before the match, mind you – eleven hours before they were to join the squad.
This was followed in other tabloids by the usual fuss about the “Liverpool spice-boys” letting down England. In fact, McManaman had just arrived in Liverpool from Real Madrid and was touching base with Fowler – his life-long friend and business partner. They had an evening meal at the restaurant and left early about 9.30 according to the author of a leading article on The Liverpool Way, whose cousin was with the players in the restaurant.
Sven Eriksson, who has strict rules about drinking before any match, dismissed the story, and included both players in his team the following Saturday.
Meanwhile on KT, on the Wednesday, Oldham was excited that he had scooped the tabloids the previous evening on the Fowler-McManaman “story”. He boasted that the nationals got it from him. He might have meant that they had got it from monitoring his site, which in itself would have been flattering for himself, but he also implied that he gave it to them or sold it.
However the “story” was conveyed to the nationals, it subjected Fowler to the kind of negative controversy he could have done without in his attempt to help England qualify for the World Cup and, in the process, reinstate him in the national team. The Fowler-bashers on KT were delighted.
But there was an unexpected glitch. On the same Wednesday and again on the Thursday, the national media reported that Steve Gerrard was at a vodka bar in Southport until 2 am on the same Tuesday night that Fowler and MacMannman were in the Liverpool restaurant, and he had apologized to Erikson with the explanation that he had drunk only alcapops.
Oldham claimed he had been fully aware of that story, too, on the Tuesday, but decided to suppress it and send the press after Fowler in order to “protect” Gerrard. In this explanation he gave himself away.
His explanation sounds like typical Oldham second-guessing and after-the fact rationalization – and an unwillingness to admit he did not know what others knew. But that said, he did suppress other negative stories about Gerrard. Those stories – known to some people on Merseyside – would have been more damaging to Gerrard, if they were true, than the stories about Fowler’s lifestyle and conduct were to Fowler. The difference is that they never saw the light of day on Koptalk.
Oldham was also very thorough in suppressing negative stories and comment about Owen’s alleged lifestyle and conduct.
We know that Oldham is motivated by money and those Gerrard and Owen stories would have generated traffic. So why didn’t he use them?
I don’t know. My only suggestion is that Oldham was still beholden to Koptalk’s majority and had to respect their wish to protect their two favourites – Gerrard and Owen. In the case of the Owen stuff – it might also have been that Owen’s lawyers were more proactive than Fowler’s.
But it was all going to his head. He began to demand respect and acceptance by the established media. He was, after all, the sole owner of what he liked to call “The World’s No. 1 Football Site”. He forced his attentions on journalists, offering to peddle gossip about Fowler.
One of his first targets was David Maddock of the Mirror. It was a strange relationship. Even while Oldham was trying to ingratiate himself with Maddock he used the contact to suggest to Koptalk readers that Maddock was one of his informants. He wrote an entire editorial in which he tried to demonstrate that Maddock had initiated the contact and supplied him with information about Fowler. Having his cake and eating it is one of Oldham’s favourite techniques so in the same editorial he suggested that he would be skeptical of Maddock’s intentions. This was a sop to the articulate anti-Fowler posters on KT. They had learned from others that Maddock sometimes socialized with Fowler and McManaman. They could not tolerate that he sometimes wrote sympathetic treatments about Fowler. They began a campaign to dismiss all Maddock’s reports as being tainted by his contact with Fowler. Houllier also made an aggressive remark about Maddock during a press conference.
While I am not privy to private goings-on, my understanding is that David Maddock cut the contacts with Oldham pretty quickly back then in 2001/2002, contrary to Oldham’s recent insinuation that he remains a member of the Gold Club and continues to be an informant. Subsequently, Maddock became the co-author of Robbie Fowler’s autobiography.
Oldham also tried to bully members of the Merseyside media establishment. He wanted to plug into their information and their sources, and ride piggy-back on their official access LFC. Then he would claim that his unwelcome advances on them gave him some kind of street cred – like a mugger claiming to be an acquaintance of the toff he had tried to rob on the basis that they had both been involved in the same robbery. He insinuated that because he had called local journalistes in a blustering and bullying manner on the telephone, they were his informants, too, and he theirs.
He got short shrift from the professionals. A leading member of the local media, Chris Bascombe of The Liverpool Echo, felt it necessary in 2001 to disassociate from Koptalk. In the Football Echo he publicly dismissed its veracity, referring to it contemptuously as “Koptalk or Kop Chat“.
Oldham’s response was that they were just locals – he was already in the business of dealing with the nationals.
But for Oldham, the final justification is money. It didn’t matter that he was rejected by the local media. He would just keep stealing their product, as he does to this day. He sells it as EXCLUSIVE NEWS AND WHISPERS FROM INSIDE ANFIELD MELWOOD AND THE ACADEMY.
All of Oldham’s obsessive stalking of Robbie Fowler and the hits and money it was bringing and the attention from the tabloids, led him to fantasize that without any training in journalism, without any job experience, without any work, he had become an Investigative Reporter and an Editor and a Publisher. And so, to cap it all, he would also become an Author.
In true S** style, the book would be a muck-raker – “Anfield Exposed”. It would, of course, be the insider story on Fowler, but the star of the book would be Oldham – the Persecuted Christ of the Internet – the representative of ordinary fans on earth and how he had been worked over by the “suits”.
And what became of Oldham’s anti-Fowler campaign? Oh that! It died the moment he stopped making money from it.
Fowler’s transfer to Leeds was an anti-climax for Oldham. The main Fowler-bashers on his site no longer needed him. They left KT en masse and went to other sites. His hits have never since returned to the high levels of those halcyon days.
Earlier this year, when news of Robbie’s transfer to LFC became public, Oldham was caught flat-footed. He was probably the last to know again, just as he was the day Fowler left LFC.
Robbie’s return was enthusiastically received by the new generation of posters on KT, most of who did not know about Oldham’s past. This allowed the Artful Dodger to turn on a dime and welcome Robbie back. But on his internet broadcast – where he speaks a little more incautiously than he writes – he contemptuously dismissed him as no more than a mascot who did not make any real contribution to the team in the second half of last season. He wanted Cisse instead.
The nearest Oldham has come to apologizing for his stalking and slander of Fowler is to preach recently to his dwindling KT flock that Robbie Fowler was the victim of others who got him into scrapes and left him to take the blame. In other words he was a good natured simpleton manipulated by the evil McManaman and unnamed others.
Poor, simple Robbie Fowler! He may be the richest sportsman in the UK as the result of his property empire and he may be admired with affection by countless people all over the football world and he may be one of the legends of LFC, but how much he owes to the understanding and forgiveness of the wise old sage of Koptalk!
To hear him talk you wouldn’t believe Oldham was a little more than a year older than Robbie – 23 to 27 years of age when he was stalking the 22 to 26 year-old Fowler. And in the periods when Fowler was heavier than his ideal playing weight he still never reached half the weight of the heavy-eating, heavy drinking Oldham.
Oldham is now on the defensive. And you know what that means. He will hide behind his kids. And so he has taken to repeatedly reminding everyone that he named his own son Robbie – after Fowler. That’s the same son he also claims is a fan of Shearer and Newcastle.