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Robbie Fowler opens up on England hell as Trent Alexander-Arnold snub hits home – Robbie Fowler


When Trent Alexander-Arnold was left out of the England squad last week, I couldn’t help but think back to my own unhappy experience with the national team.

I only got 26 caps, which was nowhere near enough, and I always felt I was only there to make up the numbers, not be offered a real chance to play.

I scored more than 100 goals before I even got my first cap, and never got a proper run in the team. But the thing that chimed with Trent’s experience, is that I don’t think the England managers were always straight with me.

What Gareth Southgate says about Alexander-Arnold just doesn’t ring true. Of course, he may have his reasons, but to say he’s been left out because of form can’t be right. If Gareth was picking on form, then surely Michael Keane and Ben Godfrey would be in his squad?

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Robbie Fowler only played for England 26 times

I had times when I felt the manager didn’t fancy me, was never honest with me, or spoke with me properly to explain where the problem lay, and to give me a chance of putting it right. I never saw eye to eye with Glenn Hoddle or Sven Goran Eriksson, and I think that impacted on my career.

Look, it happens. You can have an England manager who just doesn’t rate you, who for whatever reason doesn’t want the type of player you are. I think every manager I had was like that with me!

Do I have regrets? No. I know I’ll probably get stick for this, but I never enjoyed playing for England…or to be absolutely clear, not playing for England.

I was not the sort of player who was content to sit on the bench, and most certainly not the type who was happy to go along for the experience. It was pretty tough being there, knowing you weren’t going to play.

I only made a couple of appearances at major finals, and both were as sub. Even now, I don’t get it.

For the semi final of Euro ‘96, surely it was worth bringing me on to nick a goal when the game went to extra time – given the form I was in – or even right at the end just to take a penalty.

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Trent Alexander-Arnold was left out of Gareth Southgate’s squad for this month’s World Cup qualifiers

And I was totally baffled in 2002 when Michael Owen went off injured, and I didn’t get on. I was a goalscorer, we needed a goal.

It never felt right, and I think Trent will be going through the same thought processes now. He’s done nothing wrong. Yes, his form hasn’t been at it’s absolutely peak, but c’mon, he’s been playing in a makeshift defence all season, and that would have an impact on any player’s form.

It just doesn’t smell right. If Gareth says it’s all about form, then what about Kieran Trippier? Not having a go at him in any way, but how many games has he been back. A couple? So it’s not just about form.

I can’t believe Trent is a player who doesn’t train right or anything like that. I’ve watched him in training a lot, and believe me, he puts it in.

He’s the type who gets wound up and passionate if things go against him, if he’s losing or a decision goes the other way…even in training! So he’s training the way he plays, no doubt.

I don’t think it can be about his character either. He obviously has a laugh, he’s one of the jokers and one of the lads. But these days, honestly, that can’t be a reason. Things have changed completely in that regard even from when I was playing.

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With me, there were probably issues about the way I trained. I didn’t always train the way I played on a Saturday, where players like Jamie Carragher, and Gareth Southgate himself did.

Robbie Fowler is one of Liverpool’s greatest ever strikers

But there was a reason. I didn’t fly into tackles and kick people, because I wanted to be there on Saturday scoring goals. I didn’t kill myself either, because I wanted to be fresh and at my peak for the games.

But I loved scoring goals, and they meant as much to me in training as they did on match day. I didn’t care. Give me a net, I wanted to put the ball in it. So no way was I going to mess around, or whatever.

It’s a weird thing, the international set up. Of course, you have to accept the manager is picking from the elite, and so could just fancy a player in your position more. I guess I had that with Michael Owen, but 11 starts or whatever it was in my entire international career, with the goals I scored? Nah.

Trent has won the lot, and played at the very, very highest level in world football. He’s shown he has the bottle and class for that, and if there’s one issue with this England squad, then it’s about quality in certain positions.

Southgate is blessed with some very good full backs, but better than Trent, with the experience of playing in Champions League finals and World Club Championships? Nope. And is any one of them a better passer or crosser of the ball? No.

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He can play midfield too, which is where I worry England don’t have the depth or quality required to compete with the other big nations. Why not give him a go there? He’s played centrally for Liverpool, and many say that’s a progression he can make in his career.

I’ve heard people comparing his passing – and his set pieces – to Steven Gerrard. In fact, when Trent was a kid, I know a lot of people around the Melwood training ground compared the two of them.

I think Gareth has missed a trick. But of course, he can have his reasons. Maybe he wanted to give him a reminder that no player is above being dropped. Maybe he thought Trent needed a rest and this was the ideal time to do it, given the opposition.

It will still have hurt though. It does, no matter who you are – as you can probably tell from this column, many years after I hung up my boots. And talking of that, what about the World Cup in 2006…..!





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