Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Ian Rush at Liverpool: "I was in the right place at the right time"

On a recent visit to Northern Ireland, Gareth Hanna caught up with Liverpool legend Ian Rush

Liverpool legend Ian Rush
Liverpool legend Ian Rush

The last time Liverpool won the league title, Ian Rush was smashing home the goals in front of the Kop.

These days, 18 years on, as his old team finally looks like mounting a serious challenge for Premier League honours, proud Welshman Rush is the Elite Performance Director for his country.

The legendary striker was the star attraction at Mourneview Park last Friday night as Northern Ireland's U16 side took on their Welsh counterparts in Sky Sports’ Victory Shield.

Unfortunately for Dessie Curry's boys, the away side stole the three points.

It’s all a far cry for Rush when he was winning European Cups with Liverpool, but he is enjoying his new role.

“The job is to get them ready to play for Brian Flynn (Wales U21 boss) and John Toshack (Wales senior manager),” said Rush.

"Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey, who is only 17, recently made the senior squad and is an inspiration to the younger players.

“They know that if they do well, they'll get their chance."

Rush, now 47, knows exactly what it takes to be a superstar footballer.

He began his professional career with lowly Chester City and quickly began scoring goals, hitting 17 in 39 appearances for the club, tempting Liverpool boss Bob Paisley to fork out £300,000 in 1980 to give the lean striker a chance in the then First Division.

"Liverpool's a massive club and it was a big step for me," said Rush in an exclusive interview with the Belfast Telegraph.

"I decided to give it a go and see what happened after a year.

“Fortunately, I was in the right place at the right time and I got my chance.

“You have to take it when you get it and I was very, very lucky to play with great players at Liverpool.

“I had a great partner in Kenny Dalglish."

Many believe that striking partnership to be the best in footballing history.

"I agree, really," says Rush.

"At the end of the day, it's not being big-headed because now that I'm finished playing, I can say what I want. When you're playing, you're not allowed to say that.

"For me, Kenny was a fantastic player. I loved the way he played.

“We complimented each other; me with my pace and finishing and Kenny with his ability to play the ball to my feet.

"We rarely spoke off the pitch but we speak a lot more now than we ever did. We're really close friends these days."

In 1987, after trophies and goals galore, Rush appeared to end his Anfield career in favour of a move to Italian giants, Juventus.

After just 15 months on the continent however, the Welshman returned to his beloved Liverpool to play under new player/manager, Dalglish.

"I was at Juventus for 15 months and scored 14 goals," he said.

"I was happy there but Kenny Dalglish rang me and offered me a chance to come back and I decided to take it. I enjoyed my time at Juventus but at the same time I didn't realise what I was missing until I had left Liverpool.

"Not many people get the chance to come back and when I was offered it I thought I'd take that chance again."

Following his return, it was alleged that Rush remarked that his time in Italy was “like living in a foreign country” but he is adamant that the rumour was the result of wind-up by his then boss, Dalglish.

"No, I didn't say that," he reveals.

"It's a long story and Kenny Dalglish has a lot to do with it!"

One of the world's most clinical finishers in his day, Rush currently holds the goal-scoring records for both Liverpool (346 goals) and Wales (28 goals) and is confident that his totals will be very tough for anyone to overcome in the modern game.

"Records are there to be broken but I think it will be a long time before the Liverpool one is broken, if anyone ever does break it," he said.

"You have to be at a club for a long time and you have to be loyal. Loyalty is decreasing now.

"The Wales record may be broken but I think it will be a long time before it is. Hopefully I’ll hand on to both for a while.”

After returning to Anfield to work as a coach under Houllier in 2003, Rush took on his first and only managerial post to date at League Two side Chester City.

Despite keeping Chester in the football league, Rush resigned after chairman, Stephen Vaughan sacked assistant boss, Mark Aizlewood and the Welshman says he would not want to repeat the experience of managing at that level.

He says: “It was very interesting to be there, though I wouldn't go in again at that level. Maybe I would at a different level.

"It was all about learning the ropes and putting yourself in good stead for the future."

Four years ago at the grand old age of 43, Rush was offered the chance to come out of retirement to sign for Welsh side TNS.

With the Welsh champions drawn to play Liverpool in the first round of the Champions League qualifiers, Rush admits that he was tempted to dust off his boots before finally deciding against the move

"I was offered a deal with them and because they were playing Liverpool, I thought about it," he said.

"But, in the end I decided to go against it. I'm still quite fit and to play against Liverpool would have been good. It would have even been nice to play in the League of Wales.

"But, at the end of the day, I think I have too much respect for Liverpool and my day's gone. I felt that, if I did play, someone else was missing out who had done a lot to get there."

Liverpool have, as yet, failed to win another league title since Rush's departure but with a good start to this season's Premiership campaign could they finally win a 19th championship?

"Hopefully," said Rush.

"They've got a good start and I think they're capable of doing it. They believe that they can win it and I'd love to see them do it. I think there's every chance.”

If Rush was playing up front with Fernando Torres there would be little doubt.

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