Houllier believes Fowler is ready for England

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Gerard Houllier, the Liverpool manager, has told Kevin Keegan: "Robbie Fowler is ready for England". The injury-jinxed striker will tonight start his first game for Liverpool - a year and a day since he was last in the starting line-up - against Rapid Bucharest in a second round, second leg, Uefa Cup tie.

Gerard Houllier, the Liverpool manager, has told Kevin Keegan: "Robbie Fowler is ready for England". The injury-jinxed striker will tonight start his first game for Liverpool - a year and a day since he was last in the starting line-up - against Rapid Bucharest in a second round, second leg, Uefa Cup tie.

Keegan, the England coach, names his squad today for the World Cup qualifying matches with Germany and Finland, and Houllier reckons Fowler is ready to boost his country's striking options despite just one reserve game and having 20 minutes on Saturday against Sunderland as his first-team action this season.

There is talk that Fowler has already been pencilled in by Keegan, who did much the same thing with the 25-year-old before Euro 2000, risking taking him to the finals despite only just coming back from ankle surgery.

But if Keegan needed any help to make his mind up, Houllier was quick to offer his guidance as he prepared his side to complete the job they started by winning the first leg 1-0 in Romania a fortnight ago. Houllier said: "Only Kevin can say whether he's going to be included or not. I feel that Robbie is fit although he needs games under his belt. But in terms of fitness, mental commitment and attitude he is ready. It's an important season for him and he knows that, there are not many players of his calibre as a finisher and I think Kevin is more than aware of that. Kevin will decide, but in terms of fitness, Robbie is OK."

Liverpool will also have the key defender Sami Hyypia back after missing four matches, while Patrik Berger will also be in the squad for the first time since the opening day of the season. Houllier said: "Having Robbie back is like having a new signing. And the same applies to Sami and Patrik. That's three new players for me to use."

Emile Heskey, who limped out of Saturday's draw with Sunderland after suffering a recurrence of a knee problem, has still to have a scan. The surprise improvement this week in the injury has persuaded Houllier to wait to see how the situation develops. He said: "We will decide what to do about Emile's knee after the Chelsea game on Sunday."

But it is the return of Fowler, who has started just 22 of the 80 matches since Houllier took solo control in November 1998, which is particularly pleasing for the Anfield fans. Fowler said: "Fitness-wise I think I am in good nick, and I was obviously pleased to score five goals in the reserves last week, but frankly it was just good to play a full match again. "I didn't realise that it was the first one I had finished since April until the gaffer told me afterwards.

"I know my all-round game needs to sharpen up a bit. I played a few minutes in the away game against Rapid Bucharest and around 20 minutes against Sunderland. I didn't have too many touches then, but I did feel sharp."

Comments