“My mother called Robbie over and said, ‘You’ve got to behave yourself.’”: Elvis Costello on the time his mum told off Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler

Elvis Costello and Robbie Fowler
(Image credit: Bradley Kanaris/Liverpool FC/Liverpool FC via Getty Images / Lester Cohen/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Elvis Costello has long been an influential, iconic figure in British music, both as a singer-songwriter and also as a producer (did you know he was behind the mixing desk for The Specials’ era-defining debut album?). So if Elvis Costello speaks, you should listen. And whilst you’re at it, if Elvis Costello’s mum tells you off, then you should listen too. Especially if you are a Premier League footballer in the 90s and you’ve just got into hot water for doing a goal celebration where you’ve sniffed the goal line because you are pretending it is a big fat line of cocaine. Are we being specific enough here? Great, let’s get to it.

It was the end of the 90s and Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler, a god amongst the Anfield faithful, had just scored a goal against archrivals Everton. His celebration, outlined above, got him into bother – he got a four-match ban and a £32,000 fine for his trouble. But that wasn’t all. Walking into a restaurant in Liverpool’s city centre one day, Fowler also got rebuked by Elvis Costello’s mum. Costello told this writer all about it a few years ago.

“He came in with [fellow player] Steve McManaman, and Macca is a much more talkative kind of guy,” Costello explained. “My mother called Robbie over and told him off. She said, “You’ve got to behave yourself.” And I got to say to him recently, ‘I want to thank you so much for taking that dressing down that my mum gave you’. He never answered back, he just took it like a schoolboy. I said, "you were so kind to her, she meant it cos she loved you, you didn't go ‘Who the fuck are you? You can't talk to me like that!’. He just took it and looked all sheepish. And I got to shake his hand or not very long ago and say thanks for that. He understood exactly what was going on. He probably heard it from everybody. They just wanted the best out of him.”

Good on Robbie for taking his punishment. Has your mum ever told off a famous footballer? Letters to the usual address, please.

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.