'Rafa's phone call was the best - but I want him to lose on Sunday'

The man at the other end of the line during the greatest phone call of Robbie Fowler's life was Rafael Benitez.

In January 2006, the then-Liverpool manager set in motion an unexpected move that brought the revered striker back to the club for a cherished second spell.

Little over four years after Fowler had departed Anfield to join Leeds United the Englishman was at Manchester City and perhaps could not have dreamed that a return to the Reds was possible.

And then Benitez dialled his number.

“I’ll always be grateful to Rafa for giving me the chance to come back home,” Fowler told Liverpoolfc.com.

“I wasn’t even playing for City. At the time, Liverpool were maybe struggling a little bit for goals. Rafa picked up the phone and asked me if I wanted to come back to Liverpool – it was probably the best phone call I’ve ever had in my life.

“I have fond memories of Rafa, a great manager.”

Those sentiments will be banished from Fowler’s mind on Sunday, however.

Liverpool resume their Premier League campaign with a trip to Newcastle United – Benitez’s current club – that afternoon, when previous affections must be put to one side.

“I want him to get beat this weekend,” admitted Fowler. “I’m a Liverpool fan. I don’t want it to be a 4-3 game – I want Liverpool to win really comfortably.”

The Reds ambassador was part of the team which played out successive 4-3 thrillers with the Magpies at Anfield in 1996 and 1997, scoring a brace in each match.

Two decades on, Jürgen Klopp’s men are likely to encounter a sturdier, more stubborn Newcastle this weekend given Benitez’s side have conceded only five goals so far on their return to the Premier League.

Fowler suggested such a scenario in his pre-match assessment.

“Even when he was Liverpool manager and you think of the players he had at his disposal, technically, tactically and going forward I think we were as good as anyone,” he added.

“But his [approach] was to not let the other team create chances, stop them from scoring and get blocks, and counter-attack and get a 1-0 win. He was like that at Liverpool and he’ll be exactly the same.

“He’ll want to do well, he’ll want to keep a clean sheet and he’ll try to get us on the counter.”