Fowler scores high among the greats, says Keegan

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The Independent Football

Kevin Keegan knows a thing or two about English strikers - and would put Robbie Fowler "right up there with the best".

Kevin Keegan knows a thing or two about English strikers - and would put Robbie Fowler "right up there with the best".

The Manchester City forward became only the third player to chalk up more than 150 goals in the Premiership following his double strike in the 3-2 victory at Norwich City on Monday night. During his time challenging for the League title at Newcastle United, then as the national manager, Keegan worked with the cream of England strikers such as Michael Owen and also both players above Fowler in that all-time scoring list - Alan Shearer and Andy Cole.

The City manager is in no doubt the 29-year-old, who burst on to the scene as a teenager with Liverpool, deserves his ranking among the Premier League's élite marksmen.

"I have managed some great strikers, and would put him right up there with the best," said Keegan, who took Fowler to Manchester City in January 2003 following the striker's disappointing spell with Leeds.

"Alan Shearer was terrific, Les Ferdinand, Andy Cole - they were terrific players and Robbie is in there with them. I don't have a one, two, three, four. I think the goal records tell you that and I think Alan Shearer has bragging rights.

"If I am honest, it is what could have been for both Alan Shearer and Robbie. They will have some regrets, but how can you have regrets about injuries? Robbie's last injury was a hip problem coming straight after needing an operation on his ankle. That injury has finished players and I think that shows his character. I think people underestimate his character."

Fowler, who cost City £6m, came in for some criticism after he returned to pre-season training accused of being overweight. However, Keegan has been impressed with Fowler's work on the training pitch.

"It was obvious what he had to do, he had to get himself what I call Premiership fit - the game is so quick now," Keegan said. "Maybe it was a bit of both, the arm around the shoulder and kick up the backside, call it what you want, but it has done the trick. He has won the Manchester City fans over, and he had to do that. He has done that out on the football field, which is the only place you can do it.

"It is not easy, but he has done it. He has come back from a difficult position at this club to make himself a crowd favourite again. I hope that continues for the rest of his career, I still think he has got two or three years ahead of him at the very top."

It was not all good news for City, however. The midfielder Joey Barton and the left-back, Stephen Jordan, will both miss next week's Premiership match against Bolton Wanderers after picking up their fifth bookings of the season at Carrow Road.

And Keegan also revealed that Ben Thatcher, Nedum Onuoha and Jon Macken would be unavailable as all three have hamstring problems.

Thatcher's injury is a particular blow as Keegan is left without a recognised left-sided full-back in his squad, with David Sommeil likely to be handed his first League start of the campaign.

The one positive for Keegan is that Claudio Reyna, who continues his comeback from a long-term groin injury, could make an immediate return to partner Paul Bosvelt in central midfield against Bolton.

City are now 10th following Monday night's game where they went 2-0 down before Antoine Sibierski and Fowler levelled the score, with the striker's stoppage-time tap-in securing all three points.