For 44 minutes on Wednesday night the younger generation inside Anfield must have wondered what the fuss surrounding Robbie Fowler's return to Liverpool was all about. Sure they had heard the stories, seen the clips and the reverence that came over their elders when the club's prodigal son travelled home from Manchester City in January but where was the hard and fast evidence of this magical rather than mythical striker? Then Fowler latched onto a threaded pass from Jermaine Pennant and, with barely a glance, massaged the most exquisite chip over Reading goalkeeper Graham Stack and into the Anfield Road goal. Now they understand.
In keeping with the fortunes of his club, this has been a testing season so far for Fowler. The sublime finish of old against Reading may have elevated him above Kenny Dalglish to second in the all-time list of Liverpool League Cup goalscorers but the third-round tie represented only his first start - and appearance - for Rafael Benitez's team since the defeat at Everton on 9 September.
A back injury had aggravated his absence from the first team since that reverse at Goodison Park but, without even a place on the bench for seven weeks, the suspicion was that the 31-year-old would exit quietly in the final 12 months of his Liverpool contract. Benitez, however, insists otherwise, and even without a reminder of Fowler's unerring eye for goal on Wednesday the manager believes his free-transfer signing has already proved his worth in his new role as a guiding light.
Benitez said: "Robbie is an idol to some of our younger players and to see your idol in front of you and see the things he can do is amazing for them. He now has the mentality that you look for in a senior player of his age. He trains at the same level as the rest of the other players in every training session. He is really good and really positive, a very good signing. It was a fantastic goal against Reading but you see that in every training session. Of course he would like to play more, but he understands the situation because he is not stupid. He knows he must wait."
With Craig Bellamy injured Fowler may have another opportunity to impress against Aston Villa tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the Liverpool captain, Steven Gerrard, insists he will play anywhere for the good of the team.
Gerrard said: "The position [I play] is not the issue. When you are a young player breaking through you want to play in your favourite position, you are desperate to get into the team. But I'm 26 now, I have to think of the team first."Reuse content