Missing Fowler says 'I've been bombed'

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Six months after reviving his Liverpool career at the Millennium Stadium with a stunning goal in the Worthington Cup final Robbie Fowler left the same arena with his future once again shrouded in doubt.

Fowler, who was man-of-the-match in his last game, for England in Greece, was not even on the bench for Liverpool yesterday and his parting shot was: "I've been bombed."

Gérard Houllier, the Liverpool manager, whose patience has already been stretched by Fowler, would not go into detail on his omission only describing it as "an internal decision".

The future of the 26-year-old has been a subject of speculation for much of the last two seasons, with Arsenal and Chelsea among his rumoured suitors. This was partly due to a series of high profile incidents in Liverpool pubs and clubs. But with fatherhood apparently mellowing his behaviour, and his form having returned, he appeared to have settled his differences with the club. Now, however, Liverpool's hitherto smooth early-season build-up faces disruption.

Fowler, who is likely to play some part in England's friendly with the Netherlands at White Hart Lane on Wednesday, would command around £15m in the transfer market. He has two years to run on his contract.

Another discontented striker, Andy Cole, was not even present in Cardiff yesterday but he did have a valid excuse. His partner, Shirley, who gave birth three months ago, fell and broke her collar bone at the weekend so he was given permission to stay in Manchester. However, he remained very much in Sir Alex Ferguson's thoughts.

The 29-year-old Cole said on Saturday that he would have to leave the club if he was not commanding a regular first-team place. Ferguson, who has made clear his preferred forward combination is Paul Scholes and Ruud van Nistelrooy, retorted: " His future is sorted. He is part of the squad and if we are going to win things then I have to have strength in depth. Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer both had to be patient and they knew our success is based on having a really strong squad. I have no reason to change that."

Ferguson was in familiar form concerning the referee Andy D'Urso. Two seasons ago D'Urso was the target of a group of United players contesting a decision in a match against Middlesbrough.

Ferguson said: "I felt sometimes, with the way he was performing, that he still had the Middlesbrough game in his mind when the players harangued him, which was wrong of them.

"He's a decent referee and a decent person, but I just think it was a big game for him and his nerves got to him.

"No matter how much training you give a person in football, management or anything, you have to have a temperament to deal with situations."