Liverpool's Luis Suarez is my player of the year: Ian Rush
Liverpool forward Luis Suarez's form should earn him the player of the year award, according to former Reds striker Ian Rush.
Suarez's phenomenal goalscoring run may have come to a halt, with the Uruguayan netting just four times in his last 11 games.
But Rush, who scored 346 goals for Liverpool in 660 games, believes the 27-year-old has provided the spark which has led to forward partner Daniel Sturridge scoring in eight successive games for the Anfield outfit.
The overall contribution has helped transform Liverpool's fortunes to the extent they are now just four points off the top of the Premier League - a competition they have never won - and are holding Tottenham off in the battle for fourth spot.
Despite the negative publicity that has dogged Suarez throughout his time in England, Rush believes his fellow sharp-shooter deserves the ultimate personal accolade.
Speaking at the launch of the 2014 Welsh Community Football Awards, Rush said: "Suarez is my player of the year for the entire year.
"He is a joy to watch and his work rate is incredible, which has affected Sturridge. He is putting a real shift in as well, and not just when Liverpool have the ball.
"I am so glad we can talk about Luis' football and nothing else.
"He knows what he has done. He has apologised for it.
"But since Brendan (Rodgers) brought him back into the side he has been enjoying his football.
"Luis has signed a new contract and you can tell by the way he plays he loves playing for Liverpool.
"The supporters love watching him and hopefully he will be there for a long time to come."
Steven Gerrard's last-minute penalty at Fulham on Wednesday means Liverpool now boast an 11-point advantage over Manchester United.
That statistic in itself is cause for satisfaction on Merseyside given Liverpool have not finished ahead of their great rivals since 2002.
"Manchester United set the standard but obviously Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool are catching them now," said Rush.
"It was the same in the 1980s for Liverpool. People looked up to us to try to reach those standards. Manchester United got there.
"For a long time now there has been a feeling if you finished above them you would win the league.
"They have been a bit unlucky this year and you have to give the manager time to build a new team.
"But from a Liverpool perspective, they have won it way too many times for our liking and we need to catch up with them."
As McDonald's Head of Welsh Football, Rush is aiming to improve the grassroots game in his homeland.
Cardiff and Swansea are both now in the Premier League and Gareth Bale is excelling for Real Madrid, Rush accepts lower down the food chain there is still a lot of work to do in Wales.
"We need better facilities and equipment," he said.
"I have always said if you don't move forward with the times, you get left behind.
"My son plays in the League of Wales. He has had one game in three weeks because the pitches are not good enough.
"TNS are way ahead in that sense.
"If there were more 3G pitches, the teams could keep going and the local community could use them as well."
- The 2014 Welsh Community Football Awards, presented by McDonald's, has opened for nominations. McDonald's Head of Welsh Football Ian Rush is urging communities to nominate their grassroots heroes for one of the ten award categories. To nominate a football club or volunteer go to mcdonalds.co.uk/awards or search 'Day in the Life of a Grassroots Club' on Youtube
Belfast Telegraph Digital