Robbie Fowler: Being at Liverpool will help Ben Woodburn the same way it helped me
Robbie Fowler expects Liverpool to handle Ben Woodburn with the same care that he received after bursting onto the scene as a teenager and believes that approach will be key to giving the striker the best possible chance of fulfilling his potential.
Woodburn became Liverpool's youngest ever goalscorer in an EFL Cup quarter-final against Leeds United at Anfield last week, taking a record that had been held by Michael Owen and prompting Jurgen Klopp to urge the media to give the 17-year-old the space he needs to develop.
His sudden emergence brought back memories for Fowler, who scored on his first team debut against Fulham in September 1993 when he was just 18. The speed with which he then established himself at Liverpool ensured he had to learn to handle being in the spotlight and Fowler believes the club's approach to dealing with sudden fame will benefit Woodburn in the same way that it helped himself.
“I don't really know him that well but from everything I've heard he's a really level-headed lad and it helps when you're a good player,” Fowler said. “He's been prolific in all the age groups he's played in and he's come in and scored a good goal against Leeds.
“His movement was excellent and I think if people would have picked up on it a bit more and made the right passes he might have got another goal. He was good but it's important now that he gets well looked after.
“The players and staff at Liverpool know that and they stop you from getting a bit too big for your boots but it's fantastic for him and we shouldn't get away from that. You could see how much it meant to him when he scored.
“You could see the joy on his face, and it obviously meant a lot to the other lads as well as you've seen when the camera panned to the bench. I think he'll be well looked after because Jurgen is very astute when it comes to handling young players and doing what's right for them.”
Speaking at a launch event to announce that a Liverpool legends team will face Real Madrid legends at Anfield on March 2017, Fowler reflected on his own emergence and admitted that while his life did change as a result of his exploits on the pitch, a combination of his own character and the determination of others to keep him grounded helped insulate him from the attention he received.
“It's hard because I always saw myself as a normal lad who just happened to play football for one of the biggest clubs in the world,” Fowler said. “I played because I loved playing, not because I wanted the adulation or for anything else that went with it.
“Obviously my life did change but I could never really pinpoint when it did because I was as normal as the next lad. Maybe that's why I had a rapport with the Liverpool fans because they saw a bit of themselves in me and that helped them take to me.
“But the change was more gradual because you were never really allowed to be big-headed at Liverpool so I never really had a day when I went to bed one night and woke up the following morning a different person. It wasn't like that.
“There were loads who helped me at that time. Graeme Souness was the manager and Roy Evans was his assistant but one of the biggest influences was Ronnie Moran, he was brilliant with me. He'd been at Liverpool for almost 50 years and had worked with some unbelievable players and I never once saw him get excited about any player. He was just deadpan.
“After a game against Fulham when I scored five the first thing he said to me was “You should have had six.” That was what he was like. As much as he knew you were a good player and wanted you to do well he never, ever showed that. The big thing for him was he wanted what was best for the club and no individual was ever allowed to be more important than that.”
Proceeds from the legends game will go to the LFC Foundation, Liverpool's official charity, with a host of former players from both clubs set to feature. Jamie Carragher, Luis Garcia, John Aldridge, Dietmar Hamann and John Arne Riise are among those who will line up for Liverpool while Emilio Butragueno, Luis Figo and Roberto Carlos will play for Real.
Steve McManaman is expected to play a half for each side having played for both clubs and Fowler confirmed Liverpool will be open to the recently retired Steven Gerrard making an appearance if he is available for selection and able to earn a place in the team.
“Of course. Anyone who's played for Liverpool does and I'm sure if commitments allow Steven he will play,” Fowler added. “Saying that, I'm not sure whether he'll get in the team because we won the last one. The manager would be better equipped to answer this question but I don't think it's right if you change a winning team. But, seriously, I'm sure if he can Steven would love to play.”
Tickets for the Liverpool v Real Madrid legends game are priced at £20 for adults and £5 for juniors. Tickets will go on sale to Liverpool season ticket holders and members from 11am on Tuesday December 6. Tickets will be on general sale (including fan card holders) from 11am on Friday December 9.
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