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No more Fowl-ups...from now; on it will be Robbie Wowler; SAYS KING OF THE KOP.

Robbie Fowler has grown into the goal-scoring boots of Liverpool legend Ian Rush.

And along the way he has shed the tearaway image that threatened to leave him branded a hell-raiser.

Fowler goes into tonight's Coca-Cola shoot-out against Arsenal admitting: "I've grown up."

The laddish prankster has been consigned to history. The Fowler, that is, who came back from a summer holiday in Rhodes with his dark hair bleached blond, Gazza style - just for a lark.

A series of gaffes embarrassed his club and raised a question mark over his international credentials.

He was sent off during an Under-21 game in Austria for swearing;

He was rapped by the FA for baring his backside to Leicester fans;

He was carpeted by Liverpool for tongue-in-cheek comments about sex and booze in a magazine.

Then came an incident on an Under-21 trip to Portugal when a hotel room shared by Kevin Gallen and Trevor Sinclair was damaged - plus that infamous airport punch-up with team-mate Neil Ruddock.

Fowler, voted Young Player of the Year for the last two seasons, took a long, hard look at himself and decide he had to change.

Now the 21-year-old Scouser says: "I think I've started to grow up since those incidents. I'm not a bad lad but I want my exploits on the pitch to make the headlines rather than the other stuff.

"There were times when I was fined for lifting my shorts up after a goal and doing silly things in hotel rooms.

"I knew I had to grow up because it was childish the things that were happening. I'm a young lad and enjoy having a bit of fun but I realise I'm in the public eye.

"I had to write to the FA to let them know my side of the Portugal incident because I didn't want to jeopardise my England chances. As for the incident with Ruddock, there were six players involved and it got out of hand.

"If Razor had hit me properly I don't think I'd have been around to talk about it!"

By his own admission, Fowler's attitude to training and preparation were perhaps not what they should have been.

Now the Chinese take-aways have been replaced by pasta, the alarm clock has been set an hour earlier and he arrives at the training ground raring to go.

Being dropped from the opening two games of last season gave him a real jolt and he admits: "I needed a kick up the backside because in hindsight I was taking my place for granted and that is something you should never do at Liverpool.

"There are too many good players here for you to start getting complacent.

"I've followed what the dietician told me when we started pre-season training and I feel better for it. I needed more carbohydrates and pasta. Before, I would feed on Chinese food six nights out of seven because I love it.

"It's a hardship to give it up but you have to make sacrifices if you want to feel better.

"I've also been getting up an hour earlier than I used to and because of that I've felt really sharp, especially in training."

Fowler - who has breached Arsenal's mean machine defence seven times in two seasons - is just five short of a century of goals, just three years since he made his big breakthrough.

His talent has brought him a pounds 10,000-a-week contract which stretches to the new century, plus a five-year boot deal with Nike which could earn him pounds 3million.

The sudden fame and fortune would be enough to blow the minds of a lot of young men. But thanks to his family and the influence of the experienced heads at Anfield, he insists his feet are firmly on the ground.

He bought himself a new house and moved his family in as well. "We're a down-to-earth family and they make sure I do the right things," he says. "Anyway, if I ever did get big-headed, my dad would soon put me down.

"He's watched every game I've played since I was 11 and knows when to put me in my place.

"I'm a naturally down-to-earth person and I like to think I'm the same now as when I joined Liverpool as a youngster."

Fowler is aware of the dangers of being a household name and doesn't envy the spotlight stars like Ryan Giggs are put under.

He says: "Players have to be so aware about where they go at night, where they go for a drink and where they meet.

"You have to be careful all the time, and that can be difficult. There are always people who want to land you in trouble and make something of the tiniest incident because footballers are almost seen as pop stars.

"When Ian Rush first started he was a brilliant player, of course, but there can't have been as much attention focused on him. That gave him time to grow up out of the limelight.

"Now you only have to look at what Ryan Giggs has to put up with to see what I'm talking about. I feel sorry for him.

"Everywhere he goes, everything he does, there is always someone pointing a camera at him. That's not a fair situation for any youngster to have to deal with."
COPYRIGHT 1996 MGN LTD
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Rogers, Steve
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 27, 1996
Words:887
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